History of APIA amendments

After the adoption of the Access to Public Information Act in 2000, the text of the law were amended substantially several times.
The most substantial amendments were made in 2002, 2007, 2008, 2015 and 2018.
In 2018, amendments were introduced in Art. 40 of the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), made with amendments and additions to the Administrative-Procedure Code (APC). A new subparagraph 3. was introduced, according to which the decision of the administrative court in access to information cases is not subject to cassation appeal.
Thus, the cassation instance in access to information cases was revoked. In June 2018, the head of the legal team of AIP Alexander Kashumov took part in the discussion of the bill amending the APC in the leading parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs. A number of legislative proposals have been criticized, including:
  • the drastic increase in cassation appeal fees;
  • the requests for annulment of decisions that have entered into force;
  • the abolition of the principle of public hearings in cassation appeals;
  • and the abolition of the second instance in a number of classes of case.

The debate was a continuation of the discussions on the bill from 2017. Despite some achievements of AIP, resp. concessions made by MPs, (f. ex. the abolition of the public hearings was not adopted), in the end some of these problems remained in the final bill which was adopted on second reading. At the last sitting of the leading Committee on Legal Affairs, following the suggestion of its deputy chairman, the second instance court in the APIA cases was revoked in a deliberate manner and to a lack of grounds.

Amendments as of December 11, 2015 to the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act provide better electronic access to information
The amendments are directed at improvement of both the regulation for the provision of public information, as well as the regime of the so called re-use of public sector information. More specifically:
  • An extended list of 17 categories of information subject to proactive online publication and a timeframe;
  • An obligation for the heads of public bodies to review annually and update the lists of categories of information to be published online based on real public demand;
  • A regulated procedure for accepting e-requests and providing information by e-mail free of charge;
  • Administrative sanctions for incompliance with the obligations for proactive online publication;
  • A government maintained platform for filing e-requests, containing the responses of the public bodies and the documents provided;
  • Establishment of an open data portal of government information sets and resources.

On December 5, 2008 key amendments to the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act were promulgated
The amendments introduce:
  • extended scope of obliged bodies by including the regional offices of the central authorities and bodies financed under EU programs and funds;
  • the obligation for the provision of partial access to information;
  • the obligation for proactive publication of information online; and
  • the public interest test.

The amendments were introduced through two combined draft laws. The first draft law was introduced by Martin Dimitrov and a group of MPs from the opposition Union of Democratic Forces on May 28, 2008. The second draft was introduced on July 4, 2008 by the Chairperson of the Combating Corruption Committee and a group of MPs. The amendments reflect necessary changes which AIP has formulated and recommended in 2007 and 2008 in its annual reports Access to Information in Bulgaria.
2007 APIA amendments campaign
AIP has criticized the amendments when they were introduced in February 2007 due to their apparent contradiction to fundamental freedom of information standards. As a result of the initiated active public debate with the involvement of a large number of Bulgarian, foreign and international nongovernmental and governmental organizations, Bulgarian media, journalists, public figures and experts, the advocacy of AIP, and the will of some political parties represented in parliament, the initially proposed amendments were considerably changed in a positive way.

International involvement in the campaign against proposed amendments to APIA that would have weaken the access to information regime in Bulgaria:
- A letter calling on members of the Bulgarian National Assembly not to pass proposed amendments drafted by ARTICLE 19 and endorsed by 68 organisations and individuals from around the world was sent to Bulgarian legislators on May 21, 2007. Read the full text of the letter.
- OSCE Representative urges Bulgaria to prosecute attackers of journalists, warns against changes to law on information, March 23, 2007.