PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Services) — David W. Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, has transmitted a proposed bill, the FSM Freedom of Information Act,  to the 22nd FSM Congress for its members’ review and consideration.

As originally described during his inaugural address in July 2019, President Panuelo’s proposed Freedom of Information Act intends to institutionalize the disclosure of public information by establishing suitable procedures, and appropriate remedies, that ensure the implementation of the principles of transparency, openness, and accountability in public service.

Of all the rights FSM citizens do and do not have, as laid out in the FSM Constitution, there is no explicit right for citizens to receive information from their government. The Freedom of Information Act would seek to explicitly state that right, and to provide the appropriate mechanisms, people, processes, funding, and tools to support that right.

The legislative intent of the Freedom of Information Act is to enhance transparency in public service, establish a culture of openness and accountability in government, and encourage the disclosure of public information.

The scope and objectives of the Freedom of Information Act are to state that the right to access information is granted to citizens and persons defined in the act; and to provide that citizens and persons are accorded the right to consultation and information, and to be aware of government decisions affecting them, subject to certain exceptions, such as matters of national security, and diplomatic relations with foreign nations.

If passed by the FSM Congress, the Freedom of Information Act would require that each national agency publish information about its organization and functions. Each agency or office within the government would be required to hire or designate one or two employees as information officers to handle applications for information requests. These information officers, in addition to their duties to the general public, would also provide meaningful assistance in inter-agency exchanges in an effort to eliminate the practices of stove-piping and operational silos. In order to promote accuracy of information being disclosed, and to attain efficacy of the intent of the act, handling of information shall be centralized to the extent possible for consistency purposes, and to minimize any misinformation.

Citizens may find the proposed Freedom of Information Act here:

https://gov.fm/files/FSM_Freedom_of_Information_Act_as_submitted_Sep_2021.pdf

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