Your right to Inquiry: Using the Freedom of Information Act in Israel
What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act (1998) states that every Israeli citizen, or foreign citizen with a legal issue in Israel, has the right to receive information from Israeli public corporations and public authorities. This allows for a transparent and democratic Government and ensures citizens can understand decisions that may affect them. At the law offices of Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh, we have experience in utilizing the Freedom of Information Act in order to review, analyze and overturn Governmental rulings for the benefit of our clients.
Why is the Freedom of Information Act important?
This act upholds the key principles of a democratic society. It intends to preserve Governmental integrity by forcing the authorities to remain transparent and to show an unambiguously open attitude to any inquiries citizens may have on a range of issues. It provides a fair forum to question decisions on health, immigration, the environment etc. However, stipulations within the law also ensure that the authority and discretion remain with the Government Officials, preserving stability.
Who can use the Freedom of Information Act?
Everyone who has a legal issue in Israel, as both citizens and non-citizens are covered under this law. Information and data should be granted unless doing so:
- Reveals someone else’s confidential information;
- Interferes with investigations, court proceedings or a person’s right to a fair trial;
- Can reasonably be assumed to possibly cause harm to national security, the State’s foreign relations, public security or a person’s safety or welfare;
- The information was produced over seven years ago.
The full regulations are laid out between Sections 8-14 of the Act.
Which Government Offices can this be applied to?
The Law states that every “Public Authority” is covered in this Act. These include key Government agencies such as the Ministries of Health, Tourism, Justice and the Interior. Other relevant public authorities include the Courts, the Knesset, and even the Office of the President. Under Section 3 of the Act, each Government Office must have a special department for implementing the Freedom of Information Act. This forces all areas of the Israeli Government to remain transparent and fair.
What is the process of receiving information under the Freedom of Information Act?
To receive the information, an application must be made to the appropriate Government body that holds the documents, facts, data or statistics. It should be noted that there is no need to explain why the information is desired. The appropriate authority then has 30 days to accept or decline the request. If the request is granted, the authority has 15 days to provide the information.
What if the request for the Information is denied?
If the relevant authority believes that the request falls into any category between Section 8,9 or 14 of the Freedom of Information Act, it is not required to disclose the information. However, citizens can also appeal this decision by going to Court. The procedure followed is laid out in Section 17 of the Law. One must appeal to the Administrative Court where both the petitioner and the Government Office will present their argument. If the court believes that neither Section 8 or 9 will be breached by providing the information, the Petitioner’s desired information will be disclosed. If the judge rules in favor of the Governing body, then the case is closed. Thus, it is important to have a capable lawyer presenting the petitioner’s case.
Legal assistance in obtaining information in Israel
At the law office of Cohen Decker Pex and Brosh, our advocates are available to help and assist the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. This can include:
- Making an application to receive information from Government agencies;
- Representation in court to appeal unsuccessful applications to receive information;
- Answering any questions you may have on this Act and explaining your legal rights.
Contact our specialist lawyers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem via any of the following methods: