On September 28, 2019 FOI activists from Sofia and the country gathered at the Literature club Peroto (The Quill) in the National Palace of Culture – Sofia to celebrate the 17th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony.
Among the guests were partner NGOs, journalists, academia, officials from executive bodies and municipalities. The Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ms. Diana Kovacheva took part and addressed the audience.
The 2019 Right to Know Day Awards Jury selected the winners in six categories out of 33 nominations received through the special web site www.RightToKnowDay.net, AIP e-mail or sent by AIP coordinators in the country. The nominations represent FOI success stories of citizens, NGOs, and journalists.
The 2019 RKD Awards Ceremony was opened by the AIP Executive Director Gergana Jouleva.
The 2019 Right to Know Day Awards winners are:
The Golden Key award for a citizen who has most actively exercised their right of information was given to Mr. Svetlozar Alexiev from Sofia for exceptional consistency and persistency in the use of the Access to Public Information Act (APIA), including litigation against refusals, which has helped to increase the transparency of the Sofia Municipality on a number of issues of high public interest such as the organization of urban traffic, the control of commercial sites in the South Park, the renovation of Graf Ignatiev Street and others.
Honorary diploma was given to Mr. Svilen Dimitrov and informal group “Protest Silistra” for the consistent and persistent use of the APIA and exercise of the right to information, including its defense in the court, to receive reports on the spending of BGN 670,000 for landscaping by the Municipality of Silistra. The obtained over 200 pages of documents are distributed on Facebook and social networks.
The 2019 Golden Key award for an NGO went to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee for the systematic and consistent use of APIA, including litigation, to collect case law data on the murders of women in Bulgaria. The data were disclosed in the BHC's annual reports, covered by the media and used to support proposals for legislative amendments to criminalize domestic violence. In 2019, the BHC systematized and mapped the data into an online platform ubita.org, containing a database of case law on murder cases, infographics and personal stories of women, victims of violence.
The Golden Key Award for the most efficient use of the APIA by a journalist was presented to Mr. Iliya Valkov from Club Z for long, active, consistent and effective use of APIA, including protection of the right to information in court, to investigate current topics of public interest. In the last year, Valkov investigated about the contracted amounts for media services under European programs since Bulgaria's accession to the EU – a topic closely related to freedom of expression and media independence issues. He was also first to report on the amount that taxpayers would have to pay if the so-called amendments for amnesty of accumulated taxes of different denominations in Bulgaria had been adopted.
Honorary diplomas were given to:
Alexandra Markaryan, OFFNews.bg – for her investigation revealing wrongful practices of over-admission of students at the Sofia Mathematics High School. The revealed facts resulted in regulatory changes for stricter requirements and safeguards in terms of such admissions to elite schools.
Lachezar Lisitsov, Flagman.bg for consistent and effective use of APIA, including litigation, to obtain information from the Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Bulgaria and the National Assembly.
The National Audit Office of the Republic of Bulgaria was recognized with the “Golden Key” Award for the performance audit on the “Transparency and Publicity in the Activity of the State Administration and Access to Public Information for the period 1 January 2016 - 30 June 2018” in 17 ministries, the Council of Ministers and the State e-Government Agency, with specific recommendations and timelines for fulfilment for more transparency and publicity and access to information.
Honorary diploma was given to the Regional Administration of Blagoevgrad for the high level of active transparency that the institution has maintained for years and the effective implementation of the APIA obligations.
Anti – Awards
The Padlock anti-award for an institution which violates citizens’ right to information was given to the Ministry of Environment and Waters for deteriorating access to information practices, and in particular for the refusal to grant access to permits issued by the MoEW to coal plants to burn waste for experimental purposes – information related to human health and life.
A Dishonorary Diploma was presented to the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency because of the systematic refusal to provide information on topics of public interest. One of the most recent is the refusal to provide the contract with the company that collects the disinfection fee at the Kapitan Andreevo Border Crossing Point, as well as information on methods of control for the disposal of animal carcasses.
The Tied Key anti-award for an absurd access to information practice was given to the Commission for Combating Corruption and the Withdrawal of Illegally Acquired Property for the persistent practices to refuse access to information, regardless of the public pledges for transparency and accountability, and regardless of the numerous court decisions repealing those refusals, especially on cases of investigating journalists.
The 2019 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria is held within the Access to Information Forum three-year project, which benefits from a € 179 507 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA under the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria Programme.