Access to Public Information Act
Art. 1. By this act shall the social relations regarding access to public information be regulated.
Art. 2. (1) Within the meaning of this act, public information shall be any information of public significance, which relates to the public life in the Republic of Bulgaria, and gives the citizens the opportunity to form an opinion of their own on the activities carried out by those with obligations under this act.
(2) Information described in sub-article 1 shall be deemed public regardless of its physical bearer, whether preserved on a written document, plan, map, photography, or on an electronic, audio or video record, or any other of the kind.
(3) Within the meaning of this act, the citizens’ personal data shall not be deemed public information.
Art. 3. (1) This act shall apply to access to public information that is created by or kept with the state or local government authorities of the Republic of Bulgaria, hereinafter referred to as “the agencies”.
(2) This act shall apply to the access to any other public information that is created by and kept with public law entities, different from those described sub-art. 1, and where this is provided in an act of Parliament.
(3) This act shall apply to access to public information relating to such public services, which are provided by either natural persons or legal entities, and are financed by the state budget or budget funds.
(4) This act shall apply to access to public information, which [information] will secure transperency of the mass media.
Art. 4 (1) Every citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria is entitled to access to public information under the conditions and the procedure set forth in this act, unless another act provides for a special procedure for searching, receiving and disseminating such information.
(2) The right of access to public information is a constitutional right of the citizens of the Republic of Bulgaria.
(3) Foreign citizens and individuals with no citizenship shall enjoy in the Republic of Bulgaria the same rights described in sub-art. 1.
(4) The rights described in sub-art. 1 shall also be enjoyed by legal entities.
Art. 5. The right of access to public information may not be exercised against other persons’ rights and reputation, the national security, public order, peoples’ health and the recognized moral standards.
Art. 6. The basic principles governing the practice of access to public information shall be:
1. disclosure of the information, while preserving the citizens’ personal integrity, as well as the social and state security;
2. conformity with the law in searching and receiving public information;
3. equal conditions for access to public information;
4. correctness and completeness of the information;
5. protection of the access to information right.
Art. 7. (1) No restrictions of the right of access to public information shall be valid, unless the latter is classified as state or official secret, as well as in other cases provided for in an act of Parliament.
(2) Access to public information may either be full or partial.
Art. 8. This act shall not apply to information, which is:
1. obtainable in the course of provision of administrative services to citizens and legal entities,
2. kept with the State archives of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Art. 9. (1) Public information, which is created and kept by the agencies and their administration is categorized into official and administrative information.
(2) Where so provided in an act of Parliament, certain official or administrative information may be declared state secret or official secret, and access to it may be restricted.
Art. 10. Official information shall be deemed information contained in the acts issued by state or local government agencies in exercising their powers.
Art. 11. Administrative information shall be deemed information, which is collected, created and kept in connection with official information, and with respect to the agencies and their administration and their activities.
Art 12. (1) Access to official information, which is contained in normative acts shall be provided by promulgating it.
(2) Access to other official information shall be provided by promulgating it if so provided in an act of parliament, or if the agency who created it [the information] so decides.
(3) Access to official information in cases other than those provided in sub-art. 1 and 2 shall be unrestricted and shall be exercised in accordance with the procedure set forth in this act.
(4) Where the requested official information is promulgated, the respective agency shall state the number, the date and the name of the issue where the information was published.
Art. 13. (1) Access to administrative information shall be unrestricted.
(2) Access to administrative information may be restricted, if it:
1. relates to the preparatory work on an act of an agency, and has no significance in itself (opinions and recommendations prepared by or for the agency, reports and consultations);
2. contains opinions and statements related to on-going or prospective negotiations to be led by the agency or on its behalf, as well as any data relating thereto, always provided that it [the information] was prepared by the administration of the respective agency.
(3) The restrictions described in sub-art. 2 shall stay for a period of 20 years after the creation of such information.
Art. 14. (1) Every agency shall inform about its activities by making publications or using other form of announcements.
(2) Every agency must announce information, which has been collected, or came to its knowledge during the performance of its activities, where such information:
1. is of a nature to prevent a threat to the citizens’ life, health or security, or their property;
2. disproves a previously disseminated incorrect information that affects important social interests;
3. is, or could be, of interest to the public;
4. must be prepared and released by force of law.
Art. 15. (1) In order to achieve transparency of the administration, and for the purpose of facilitating access to public information in the highet degree, every head of an administrative unit within the system of the executive power shall publish up-to-date information in regular time intervals containing:
1. description of his/her powers as well as data on the organizational structure, the functions and the responsibilities of the administration led by him/her.
2. list of the acts issued within the scope of its powers;
3. description of the data volumes and resources, used by the respective administration,
4. name, address, telephone number and the working hours of the respective administration’s office which is entrusted to receive requests for access to public information;
(2) Every head of unit described in sub-art. 1 shall prepare an annual report on all the requests for access to public information, which shall contain among others data on the refusals made and the reasons thereto. This annual report shall be part of the annual report described in art. 61, sub-art. 2 of the Administration Act.
Art. 16. (1) The Minister of State administration shall publish an annual summary of the reports of the agencies described in art. 15., and other information relating to the implementation of this act.
(2) The Minister of State administration shall be responsible for distributing the summary. The information contained in the summary shall be made available in every administration for citizens’ check up.
Art. 17. (1) Access to public information relating to the activities of the obliged persons described in art. 3, sub-arts. 2 and 3 shall be unrestricted.
(2) Information described in sub-art.1, which is a trade secret or the disclosure or dissemination of which is of a nature to result in unfair competition shall not be disclosed.
Art. 18. Information concerning media outlets shall be deemed public only if related to:
1. the persons taking part in the management of the respective media outlet, if such person exercise an effective control over its management or its activities;
2. business related parties taking part in the management of other mass media, which allows them to exercise an effective control over their management or their activities;
3. the persons directly engaged in the mass media, which participate in or influence the editorial policy;
4. the announced statements on the mass media’ public goals and its political orientation;
5. the financial results of the mass media owner and the dissemination of its production.
Art. 19. (1) The provision of free access to the information defined in art. 18 about a media outlet shall guarantee citizens the opportunity to form their own independent opinion on the information disseminated [by the media outlet].
(2) Access to information described in art. 18 shall be exercised in conformity with, and in preserving the balance between, the principles of transparency and economic freedom, as well as the protection of personal data, trade secrecy and the confiedntiality of journalistic sources, which have requested anonymity.
Art. 20. (1) Access to public information shall be free of charge.
(2) Expenses incurred for granting access to public information shall be recovered in accordance with tariffs determined by the Minister of Finance, and shall not exceed the actual costs incurred.
(3) A justification of the expenses charged shall be made to the applicant upon his/her request.
Art. 21. Those described in art. 3 shall announce the place where the request can be filed, the possible forms of granting access to public information, the charges due and the means of their payment.
Art. 22. No additional expenses shall be charged for corrections and/or addendum to the granted public information in cases the information is incorrect or incomplete and this has been requested on stated grounds by the applicant.
Art. 23. The income received in the course of granting access to public information shall be for the account of the respective agency’s budget.
Art. 24. (1) The request for granting access to public information shall be made in the form of a written application.
(2) The application described in sub-art. 1 may be sent electronically under the conditions set forth by the respective agency, in which case the application shall be deemed to be in writing.
Art. 25. (1) Access to public information may also be granted on the basis of an oral request.
(2) Where the applicant is not granted access to public information requested in oral form, or he/she considers the disclosed public information insufficient, he/she may file a written application.
Art. 26. (1) The application for access to public information shall contain:
1. full name, or respectively the business name and the seat of the applicant;
2. description of the information requested;
3. the prefered form of access to the requested information;
4. the address for correspondence with the applicant.
(2) If any requisite under 1, 2 or 4 above is not present in the application, the latter shall be left without further consideration.
(3) Every filed application for access to public information shall be registered in accordance with the procedure adopted by the relevant agency.
Art. 27. (1) Access to public information shall be granted in the following forms:
1. examination of the information – original or copy
2. oral explanation;
3. paper copy;
4. copy on technical bearer.
(2) Any of the forms described in sub-art. 1 can be used for access to public information.
(3) Where the prefered form of access to public information is the one described in sub-art. 1, point 4, the technical parameters for the recording of the information should be defined.
(4) Persons with imoaired sight, hearing or speech are entitled to request access in a form that corresponds to their ability to communicate.
Art. 28. (1) The agencies shall comply with the requested form of access to public information, except where:
1. it cannot be satisfied due to technical reasons;
2. it results in unjustified increase of costs of disclosure;
3. creates a risk of unlawful processing of the information or of intellectual property rights infringement.
(2) In the cases provided under sub-art. 1, access shall be granted in a form decided by the respective agency.
Art. 29. (1) Each application for access to public information shall be considered within the shortest possible time, but not later that 14 days as of date of registration.
(2) Within the time period set in sub-art. 1, the agency, or person explicitly authorized by them, shall decide on whether to grant or deny access to public information and shall notify in writing the applicant of the decision.
Art. 30. (1) Where the requested information is not learly defined, or is defined in broad terms, the applicant shall be advised accordingly and shall be provided an oportunity to specify the requested information. The time period set in the preceding article shall start running as of the date when the requested public information was [clearly] specified.
(2) If the applicant failed to [clearly] specify the requested public information within a period of 30 days, the application shall not be considered.
Art. 31. (1) The time period set in art. 29, sub-art. 1 can be extended with no more than 10 days, where the requested information as specified in the application is substantial in volume and additional time for it’s preparation is needed.
(2) The [extention] notification should state the reasons for the postponement of the request for access to public information.
Art. 32. (1) The time period set in art. 29, sub-art. 1 may also be extended where the requested information is a matter of concern to a third party and consist of:
1. commercial, financial scientific or technical information that has been made available to the respective agency by a third party and on the disclosure of which prior restrictions had been set;
2. information, the access to which would cause sufficient financial damage to the third party, or would affect its competitive advantage;
3. information, the access to which would affect third party’s contractual relations;
(2) In all cases described in sub-art. 1, the respective agency must seek the third party’s explicit written consent for the disclosure of the requested information.
(3) The third party’s consent sall be given within 10 days after the [consent] request, and should state for which data consent is given, who can use [the data] and in what manner. The third party may also consent to a partial disclosure of the requested information.
Art. 33. (1) When the agency does not have the requested information, but is aware of its location, it shall re-sent the application within 14 days as of receipt of the application and shall notify the applicant of the re-sending. The notification must always specify the name and the address of the respective agency or legal entity.
(2) In the case described in sub-art. 1, the time period set in art. 29, sub-art. 1, shall start running as of receipt of the re-sent application.
Art. 34. If the agency does not have the requested information and is not aware of its location, it shall notify the applicant accordingly within 14 days.
Art. 35. (1) The decision under art. 29, sub-art. 2, by which access to public information is granted must state:
1. the degree of access to the requested public information provided;
2. the time within which access to the requested public information is available;
3. the location where the requested information will be disclosed;
4. the form in which access to the requested public information will be granted;
5. the costs for granting access to the requested public information.
(2) The decision may also state other agencies, organisations and persons who have more detailed information available.
(3) The decision to grant access to the requested public information shall be handed over to the applicant against his/her signature or sent by registered mail.
(4) The time period described in sub-art. 1, point 2 may not be less than 30 days as of receipt of the decision.
Art. 36. (1) Access to public information shall be granted after payment of the specified costs and after presentation of document certifying payment.
(2) A record shall be drawn [of the event] of providing access, which shall be signed by the applicant and the relevant civil servant.
Art. 37. If within the time specified in art. 35, sub-art. 4 the applicant fails to appear or to pay the required costs, either of his failures shall be considered a rejection of the granted right of access to public information.
Art. 38. (1) The following shall be grounds for a refusal to grant access to public information:
1. the information requested is a state or official secret, as well as cases described in art. 13, sub-art. 2;
2. access is of a nature to affect third party’s interests and the third party did not give its explicit written consent to access to public information;
3. access to the requested public information was provided to the applicant within the preceding six moths.
(2) In the cases described in sub-art. 1, partial access may be granted to such parts of the information, access to which is not restricted.
Art. 39. A decision refusing access to public information shall state the legal and factual grounds for the refusal, as defined in this act, the date of the decision and the procedure for its appeal.
Art. 40. A decision refusing access to public information shall be handed over to the applicant against his/her signature or sent by registered mail.
Art. 41. (1) A refusal to grant access to public information is subject to appeal to the regional court, in accordance with the procedure set in the Administrative Procedure Act, or to the Supreme Administrative Court in accordance with the procedure set in the Supreme Administrative Court Act, depending on the agency, which rendered the decision.
(2) A refusal of a person under art. 3, sub-art. 3 and art. 4 is subject to appeal to the regional court in accordance with the procedure set in the Administrative Procedure Act.
(3) An appeal shall be submitted within 30 days as of date of receipt of the refusal.
Art. 42. (1) If a court finds that a refusal is not in conformity with the law, it shall repeal the decision for refusal and shall direct the agency to grant the request for access to public information.
(2) In the cases described in sub-art. 1, access to public information shall be provided in accordance with the procedure set forth in this act.
Administrative Penalty Provisions
Art. 43. (1) If not subject to a harsher penalty, a civil servant who failed to respond within the specified time limits to a request for access to public information without exculpatory reason, shall be fined between 20 and 50 leva.
(2) If not subject to a harsher penalty, a civil servant who did not follow a court order to grant access to public information shall be fined between 50 and 100 leva.
(3) For a failure to meet one’s obligation under art. 32, sub-art. 3 shall be punished with a fine between 50 and 100 leva for physical persons or between 100 and 200 leva for legal entities.
(4) For failure to provide access to public information where the party obliged [to provide access] is one of those described in ati. 3 sub-art. 2, 3 and 4, the punishment shall be a fine between 100 and 200 leva.
Art. 44. Penalties shall be imposed by:
1. under art. 43, sub-art. 3 – by the respective agency, and if the obliged persons are those described in art. 3, sub-arts. 2, 3, and 4 – by the Minister of Justice and EC Legal Integration or an official authorized [by the Minister].
2. under art. 43, sub-art. 4 - by the Minister of Justice and EC Legal Integration or an official authorized [by the Minister].
Art. 45. Any offence shall be established, penalty shall be imposed, appealed and executed in accordance with the Administrative Offences and Penalties Act.
§1. This act revokes:
1. The Decree No. 1086 / 12.07.1977 of the State Council on the work with the criticizing publications (prom. State Gazette issue 56 / 19.07.1977, in force as from 19.08.1977)
2. Arts. 14 and 19, as well as point 2 of sub-art. 1 to art. 57 of the Suggestions, Notices, Complaints and Requests Act (prom. State Gazette issue 52 / 04.07.1980, amended issue 68 / 02.09.1988)
§2. The act shall come into force as from …………… 1999.
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English Version Last Update: 05.01.2002 © 1999 Copyright by Interia & AIP