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IDFI Asks for More Accessibility to Archived Documents

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, April 25
Non-Governmental Organization Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) says that Georgia has set the most restrictions among the Eastern European states in terms of accessibility to the archived documents.

IDFI believes that it is necessary to make relevant amendments to the legislation in order to improve access to archival documents.

In order to solve the issue, the organization has presented the legislative proposal to the Parliament of Georgia on amendments to the Law on National Archives Fund and National Archives.

According to IDFI, it is problematic that the Law on Personal Data Protection and National Archives Fund and National Archives imposes restrictive regulations for access to documents containing personal data and in addition, the documents are not accessible even for the research purposes.

The current legislation reads that archival institutions refuse to issue documents created since 1944 on the basis of personal data protection because 75 years need to be passed since their creation.

The organization says that for example, if a historian wants to study April 9, 1989 developments, when the Soviet regime dispersed a peaceful rally and killed 20 young protesters, the person has to wait until 2064, when 75 years will be passed.

The current law also reads that some archived documents can be issued if the persons mentioned in them are dead for more than 30 years. In this case, the archival institution requests the documentary confirmation about the date of the death of those people.

In addition, IDFI indicates another problem - the high cost of copying the documents preserved at the National Archives of Georgia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The organization says if a person wants a copy, they have to pay quite a lot for it and also, it is prohibited to take photos of the materials by the readers themselves.

The proposal of IDFI to the parliament asks for:

Availability of documents containing state secrets protected by the National Archives Fund, documents containing personal data (including special category personal data) for scientific research purposes;

Regulation of the dates and fees of the requested archived documentation

Allow taking photos of the archived documents in the reading hall of the archive institutions.

Publication of the list of damaged and lost archived documents.

The issue of openness and accessibility to the archived documents became more important after Latvia opened KGB archive and made it publicly accessible.

The NGO says that access to the Soviet archives and archival documents remains contentious topic among many post-Soviet countries, adding archival documents will help to improve historiography, shape the collective memory of the nation, and counter myths and lies perpetuated by many neo-Stalinists and the contemporary Kremlin propaganda.