Access to Information Program reports citizens have better knowledge of Access to Public Information Act

Photo: librqry

Lawyers from the “Access to Information Program” (AIP Foundation) have analyzed the state of access to information in Bulgaria in 2018 in a report. The report is annual and has been published since 2001 without interruption. The conclusion of the analysts is that publishing of information on the websites of institutions, which are obligated by the law to do so, has been on the rise. Positive changes in court practices regarding the Access to Public Information Act have also been seen. The report also recognizes citizens who require access to information now have much greater awareness and knowledge of the law.

Following an analysis of legislation and practices, the authors of the report have made recommendations for easing administrative procedures, as well as for increasing transparency and accountability of management. "We are witnessing active efforts on the part of the whole country aimed at fulfilling our obligations under this law’ we also recognize the positive role of institutions such as the Court of Auditors and the Directorate for Modernization of Administration at the Council of Ministers, which has made extraordinary efforts related to the electronic declarations platform, which would start operating very soon,” says lawyer Alexander Kashamov, who is among the authors of the report:

"Against the backdrop of this good news comes the fact that the courts in the country and the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) have also been performing their duties well. Unfortunately, there are also negative developments. In 2018, when we expected other institutions to engage actively in the joint efforts aimed at better implementation of the Act and for more institutional transparency and civil control over their work, a severe blow was dealt to access to information since the law was adopted back in the year 2000. Through a non-transparent legislative initiative in the Parliament's Legal Committee, a change had been tabled, which dismissed the entire second instance of court, thus stopping citizens and legal entities form filing cassation complaints. This way, in the absence of administrative control by a higher administrative authority, the protection of the right to information has been left to a single court."

In terms of its qualities, the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act ranks 52th among 123 similar laws in the world. The lawyers who create this international ranking focus their criticism mainly on the sanction mechanisms and the lack of an information commissioner in charge of administrative control, as well as the one-instance court. According to lawyer Kiril Terziiski of AIP, after the cassation instance had been dropped, there would be no corrective of decisions taken at the first instance.

"The change is a risky one because it creates a prerequisite for no cassation appeal. We manage to be of help to the citizens, as in the past year there were 60 court decisions. 50 out of them were in favor of access seekers and only 10 were in favor of the administration. My advice is for citizens to insist on information access, to be active and not to sink in despair in the search for justice because they can rely on organizations like ours. "

Together with its annual report, AIP has announced the start of the new campaign, in which the Golden Key award will be presented to citizens, non-governmental organization, journalists and institutions. There will also be two anti-awards - for the most absurd and funny decision imposed under the law. The nomination process is already in progress.

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: private library

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