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2021 Freedom of Information report reveals Israeli government top offenders

Jerusalem24 – The 2021 activity report of the Israeli Freedom of Information (FOI) government unit, which was released this morning, reveals that the Prime Minister’s Office received the largest number of complaints in its handling of FOI requests in 2021.

The Prime Minister’s Office was found to be in violation of the FOI law a total of nine times in 2021, mostly for lack of response. It also recorded the highest rates for exceeding the timeframe stipulated in the law for responding to a FOI request (120 days), and was in fact late in responding to two-thirds of requests.

The three administrations that regularly exceeded the 120-day timeframe in issuing a response were the Prime Minister’s Office in 64.5% of cases; COGAT (the administration that oversees civil matters relating to the occupation of the West Bank) in 38.1% of cases; and the Ministry of Environmental Protection in 36.4% of cases.

The authorities that rejected the highest percentage of FOI requests are the Ministry of the Interior (48.2%), the Courts Administration (45.4%), the Ministry of Justice (43%), and the Ministry of Internal Security (41.1%), with one of the main reasons cited for rejection being that the requested information did not fall within the scope of the FOI Act.

The only ministry that did not submit a FOI activity report for 2021 is the Ministry of Settlements.

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.

Every “public authority” is covered in the Act, and every government office must have a special department for implementing the Act.

Information and data must be disclosed, 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;
  • If the information was produced over seven years ago.

Source: Freedom of Information Law 5758-1998

The ministries that responded positively to the highest percentage of requests are the Ministry of Transportation and Road Safety (83.8%), the Population and Immigration Authority (82.3%), the Israel Land Authority (76.3%) and the Ministry of Economy and Industry (65.7%).

The authorities that responded the most within a short timeframe of up to 14 days are the Israel Land Authority (74.8% of requests), the Ministry of Economy and Industry (73%) and the Ministry of Transportation and Road Safety (63.6%).

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