Ensuring Freedom of Information: Accessing Facts and Figures of Interest to the Public

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>> Click here to read the full position paper: Ensuring the Freedom of Information 

The Freedom of Information Law led to a revolution in government transparency in the State of Israel. One of its most important components is Article 9(a)(3), stipulating that a public entity shall not provide information that infringes on privacy unless this is permitted by law. For 20 years, the accepted interpretation was that as long as the information was of public interest, the entity’s official in charge of freedom of information had the authority to provide it even if the information infringed on privacy, amid adherence to the checks and balances outlined in the Protection of Privacy Law.

However, under the radar and without any public debate, in April 2019 the Attorney General changed this interpretive position and declared that the release of such information necessitates a court decision. The aforementioned change constitutes a serious violation of the people’s right to know and of the freedom of the press. It undermines the basic rationale of the Freedom of Information Law, which is designed to facilitate the flow of information between governmental authorities and the citizens and imposes an unnecessary burden on court proceedings.

To prevent the irrevocability of the Attorney General’s misinterpretation of Article 9(a)(3) of the Freedom of Information Law, and to prevent a serious violation of the people’s right to know and of the freedom of the press, Zulat for Equality and Human Rights and the Movement for Freedom of Information propose an amendment to Article 9(a)(3), stipulating that the disclosure of information of public interest will be subject, only as a default, to the decision of the official in charge of freedom of information, who will strike the necessary balance between the right to receive information and the invasion of privacy, should there be any. Adoption of the proposed amendment will preserve the interpretation that has been accepted for 20 years, from the time of the enactment of the Freedom of Information Law until recently.

 

 

Photo: Splash

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Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi

 

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.

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Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.

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Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.

 

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Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.