FOI training in Georgia — With help from the US

Exciting news out of Georgia. (The country, not the U.S. state.)

The National Security Archives, an independent non-governmental research institute based at George Washington University, is running a course on how to use the Freedom of Information Act.  The event is being sponsored by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information in Georgia.

Okay, this is all about how Georgians can use the American Freedom of Information Act to get U.S. government documents. But this is an important step in helping train citizens how to access government documents.

The Georgian constitution guarantees citizens the right to access government documents. Subsequent laws define the process to access those laws. Now it is just a matter of training people on how to use those laws.

And as in any new process there are issues:

However there are still problems with implementation including a lack of promotion by officials, demands for reasons for requests (declining but still common), failure of some bodies to create registries, failure of administrative appeals and sanctions, and slowness by courts. — Freedominfo.org report on Georgia

Now, why is this important?

There is clearly a move within Georgia to get experts to help train Georgian citizens how to exercise their right to access to government documents. And this seminar — not the first of its kind in Georgia, by the way — is an important part of the process of moving from dictatorship under Communist rule to democracy.

And it is not always an easy process. But it is something that can be helped along by the U.S. government and by private American groups with expertise in this area.

FYI, the announcement of the event was posted at Media.ge, a website that gets support from the Open Society of Georgia and the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy. (Yep, U.S. taxpayers are helping fund efforts to build and strengthen democracy in Georgia. How radical!)

Those of us who subscribe to Media.ge were made aware earlier than others of the cyber attacks on Georgia during its brief war with Russia in 2008. It took a few more days for the Western media to start reporting on the new warfare.

And now, one of the biggest topics of discussion about future warfare is vulnerabilities to cyber attacks.

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Filed under Europe, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

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