NGOs Demand: Make Government Archives Available to Public Access

Akevot Institute, represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Movement for Freedom of Information, has sent a letter to the state archivist, demanding that all archival material stored in government archives be made available to public access.

As an initial and vital first step, State Archivist Dr. Yaacov Lozowick has been asked to have the team that examines, declassifies and makes archival material available to the public resume its work. While Dr. Lozowick is personally committed to promote greater access to the archives, the letter was sent to him as he bears the legal responsibility for the archives’ activities.

The letter, written by Advocate Avner Pinchuk of ACRI, points out that 99% of archival material deposited in government archives is not accessible to the public, including documents and records that are more than fifty years old. “The rules governing confidentiality, the legal validity of which is hanging by a thread, in conjunction with bureaucratic obstacles have made it an ordeal to access to archives and research in them,”  the letter states,

If this were not enough, a decision has recently been made – based upon a directive of the Deputy Attorney General – to stop the work of the declassification team tasked with examining archival materials on behalf various government ministries. In the letter, Advocate Pinchuk criticizes the legal interpretation behind the cessation of declassification work at the archive and demands immediate reconsideration of the directive.

The letter further demands that the public be given access to archival material that is past its restricted access period and that Akevot Institute immediately be provided with the files it has asked for: “The State Archive, branches included, […] is failng to fulfill its objective and provide public access to archival material, in breach of the law and in a manner that violates fundamental rights and constitutional values.”

Denial of access to the vast majority of archival materials cannot be condoned and we will, therefore, take legal action should the decision to halt most declassification at Israel State Archives is not reversed and should a fundamental reform in the state of access to governmental archives is not initiated.