"Private data, business secrets and national security may all be legitimate reasons for refusing access to information. But they are also abused as a pretext to illegitimately block freedom of information requests filed by journalists in the Baltics," says RSF.
The study titled Disputes over access was conducted by the Balticada Investigations Studio and authored by media experts, including RSF’s adviser for the Baltic states, Dionizas Litvaitis, and the organisation’s correspondent in Latvia, Anastasija Tetarenko-Supe.
“While the Baltics belong to countries with the best press freedom in the world, the access to information is one of their weak spots. RSF calls on the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian authorities to address this issue by launching a public debate on the regional and national recommendations provided by the report," said Erik Halkjaer, Vice President of RSF Sweden and member of the study’s steering committee.
The report outlines fifteen recent case studies which make interesting reading themselves to illustrate some of the problems experienced in getting swift and clear access to public information.
One of the main recommendations made by the authors for all three countries is to clarify the duties of the different types of entities obliged to provide public information: state or partially state-owned companies, state-funded private foundations and independent agencies. On the national level, the report proposes that Latvia and Lithuania follow Estonia’s example.
Access to information in the #Baltics: RSF asks the 🇪🇪🇱🇻🇱🇹authorities to address a weak spot of #pressfreedom. Clarifying the obligations of data holders and simplifying appeal procedures are among the recommendations by a unique report supported by RSF.👇https://t.co/r8cii6wUnf pic.twitter.com/ftXwxtibrE— RSF (@RSF_inter) June 22, 2023
"The primary obstacle that affects both sides are the gray areas in regulation," says the report, and adds that even the definition of who qualifies to be described as a "journalist" may be out of date.
Nevertheless, all three Baltic states rank highly in RSF's annual gauge of press freedom worldwide, as previously reported by LSM.
The full report is available online at: https://rsf.org/sites/default/files/medias/file/2023/06/Disputes_over_Access_2023.pdf