Access to environmental information

The first pillar of the Convention is implemented under EU law by Directive 90/313/EEC, which was replaced by Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information. Malta transposed Directive 2003/4/EC granting the public the right of access to environmental information via the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regula​tions (S.L. 549.39)​.

As a citizen you have the right to access environmental information held by public authorities upon request. You do not need to provide a reason for your request. Furthermore, public authorities are obliged to actively collect and disseminate certain types of environmental information. Your request may only be refused on the basis of limited permitted exceptions, such as the adverse affect on public security.
 
  • A request for information on the environment can be written, electronic or hardcopy.
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  • A request must usually be answered within 30 days of receipt of the request if the information is readily available; however this time period can be extended by a further 30 days if the information requested is complex and voluminous.
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  • If the competent authority receives a request which it believes is too general, the authority will contact the applicant as soon as possible to try to determine specifically what information it is that he/she would like and give assistance to be able to do so.
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  • When making a request for information an applicant may state a preference as to the form/format in which they would like the information to be provided e.g. hardcopy/electronic etc.
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  • When ERA as the competent authority does not have the requested environmental information, it shall forward the applicant's request to the public authority holding such information to obtain the information on his behalf and shall provide this to the applicant within the time-frames stipulated above.
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  • The competent authority may charge a reasonable fee for disclosing information; however the authority cannot charge an applicant to inspect the information on site such as public registers or lists.
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  • Inevitably there is information for which there would be adverse consequences should it be released, for example the nesting location of a rare bird species. To prevent such an event happening, the Freedom of Access to Environmental Information Regulations contain a number of exceptions which would allow public authorities to withhold that information.
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  • If the competent authority refuses to disclose all/part of the information requested, that authority must state, in writing, what exception the information falls under and justify their decision that the exception should be applied.