Livni: Scale tilts for freedom of information

Justice Minister at Knesset Freedom of Information conference, says in balance with state secrecy, freedom of information wins.

Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday addressed a Knesset Freedom of Information conference, saying “the prominent public interest moves the scale overwhelmingly in favor of freedom of information,” in the balance between the need for state secrecy and for public transparency regarding government dealings.
On the 15th anniversary of the passage of the Law on Freedom of Information, Livni called it “an instrument for repairing. It is the right of the public to know what is concealed behind the decisions of the offices of the government.”
But Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein seemed to sound a different note, saying “there is a need to distinguish and to anchor in law, a substantive balance regarding the law” on freedom of information. He added that mechanisms for balance would need “to guard freedom of information, but not in a way that leads to a free-for-all on information.”
Edelstein complained that requests for freedom of information seemed to lead to media reports focused on expenses for international travel of public servants, while ignoring the positive impacts of those trips. He concluded by saying that “half-truths are worse than falsehoods.”
In contrast, Livni appeared to unapologetically push for broader freedom of information, and said that “despite the opposition, there will be transparency for the ministerial committee for legislative affairs, and I am acting to make sure that this comes about.”
She added that she planned to lower the fees for submitting freedom-of-information requests and considers the fees an obstacle for those wishing to make queries.
“When they said to me that lowering the fees would bring many more requests, I said that that was the point,” she said.
The event took place only days after the Department for Freedom of Information, fully established as of 2012, submitted its first annual report on the status of freedom of information.
A number of past and present senior Knesset and Justice Ministry officials were also in attendance.