10th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony
The 10th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria was held on 28 September at the Bulgarian News Agency, Sofia. Access to Information Programme opened the event with the song “Breathe,” dedicated to the right to know. Promotional materials, among which the Right to Know Day Magnet, were distributed to the participants in the ceremony. More than 90 attended. The ceremony was broadcast live on Internet. Pictures can be found at AIP web site: http://www.aip-bg.org/about/gallery/.
The Right to Know Day Awards Committee selected the winners in the six categories out of 42 nominations received through the special web site www.RightToKnowDay.net, AIP e-mail or sent by AIP coordinators in the country.
The winners in the six categories for 2012 are:
The Golden Key award for a citizen who has most actively exercised their right of information is given to Mr. Nikolay Tsvetkov from the town of Varna. He has actively used the Access to Public Information Act to obtain information of public interest from Varna institutions and has persistently fought and stood up for the right of access to information. During the past year, Tsvetkov has contributed to the ceasing of negative practices of information provision within two institutions in Varna. As a result of his persistency and initiatives, the Municipality of Varna stopped to demand the personal identification number of citizens if they want to file access to information requests. Also, the Regional Directorate for National Construction Control – Varna stopped to collect access to information provision taxes, which were higher than the amounts prescribed by the law.
Three citizens were recognized with honorary diplomas:
Mr. Ivan Atanasov from the town of Harmanly, who has made targeted efforts to increase the transparency of the institutions in the town of Harmanly and to improve the provision of public information. Ivan Atanasov has brought and won two access to information cases to court against refusals of the mayor of the Municipality of Harmanly – for information about the financial inspection carried out within the municipality and for the honoraria, travel expenses, and per diems paid to Law Offices in Sofia whose services the municipality used.
Mr. William Popov from Sofia, who has been active in the access to information field for years. His most recent contribution, however, is that he has successfully convinced the members of the parliamentary Temporary Inquiry Commission for the Investigation of Facts and Other Information Disseminated by the Media about a Lobbying Scandal Related to the Former Government and 1.5 mln. Euro paid to the Austrian Lobbyist Peter Hochegger to summon for testimony the President Georgi Parvanov. The reaction came as a result of documents and reports obtained with the help of APIA which William Popov presented as evidence to the parliamentary commission.
Mr. Ivan Dafinov, a citizen from the town of Kardzhali, who has brought the fist access to information case to the Administrative court of Kardzhali. He challenged the refusal of the mayor to provide information about the collection and spending of the waste management tax in the region. On the base of the information obtained, he brought the matter to the National Audit Office and the Public Financial Inspection Agency.
In 2012, the awards committee decided to recognize the Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives (BILI) with the Golden Key award as the NGO which most actively exercised the right to information in their work for increasing transparency in the judicial system. Especially remarkable is their initiative of creating public profiles of the magistrates which are online available at: http://judicialprofiles.bg/profiles/page/2/. The BILI is among the organizations which have led the campaign for more transparency of the nominees for members of the Inspectorate of the Supreme Judicial Council and for members of the Supreme Judicial Council. BILI also seeks defense of the right to information in court. They challenged the refusal of the Inspectorate of the Supreme Judicial Council to provide access to an inspection report about a nominee for a member of the same Inspectorate. The Administrative Court – Sofia City repealed the refusal.
No honorary diplomas are given in the category.
Krassen Nikolov, Mediapool
The Golden Key Award for the most efficient use of the Access to Public Information Act by a journalist was presented to Mr. Krasen Nikolov from the News Portal Mediapool. He has actively used the APIA for a number of publications dealing with issues of great public interest – the pardoning process carried out by the former President, the work of the Ministry of Interior, the work of the Center for Prevention and Countering Corruption and Organized Crime. In his publications, he always refers to the law which helps raise public awareness about its efficiency. Krassen Nikolov also covers the activities of FOI advocates in the country.
In 2012 again, the Cantek company kindly provided a present for the winner in the category. Mr. Milcho Borov, president of the company, presented a Canon Camera to Mr. Krassen Nikolov from Mediapool.
Honorary diplomas are given to:
Mr. Zhivko Konstantinov from Nova TV for using the APIA in revealing wrongdoings and breach of law in the production and sale of replicas and copies of Bulgarian national treasures. As a result of the broadcast investigation, inspections of all companies which had illegally sold such copies and commercial goods to the state were initiated by the responsible bodies.
The Otzvuk newspaper which is a local media covering the region of Smolyan. The newspaper team uses the APIA for journalistic investigations, disseminates information on how the law can be used by citizens to achieve greater transparency and thus raised public awareness and contributes to the strengthening of access to information and enhancing transparency and accountability of local public bodies.
AIP Executive Director, Gergana Jouleva, presents the Award to the Mayor of the Municipality, Detelina Nikolova
The Municipality of Dobrich was recognized as the winner of the 2012 Golden Key Award in the category for an institution which has most efficiently organized the provision of public information. The Municipality of Dobrich has the highest score the Active Transparency Rating launched by AIP in March 2012. The Municipality of Dobrich is the first among 475 institutions whose web sites were checked on the base of 40 indicators. The institution responds timely to access to information requests providing complete information. Activity and financial reports are available on their web site. They also assist requestors and maintain online accessible public registers. An information officer is assigned and also an official responsible for the oversight of the implementation of the obligations. Above all, they set an excellent example by uploading some of the municipality contracts on the web site, which is an uncommon practice.
No honorary diplomas were given in the category.
The Padlock anti-award is given to the Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Service in the town of Varna. The institution is dishonored because of an incident with the citizen Kancho Bonev on April 24, 2012. The Head of the Service called the security officer when the citizen tried to leave the building with the unsigned certificate which was to verify the receipt of the provided information. The citizen did not get factual access to the requested information but was beaten and got an eye-bruise instead.
A Dishonorary Diploma is given to the Municipality of Harmanli. The municipality does not provide information if verbally requested. The officials use as an excuse an unwritten mayor’s order. However, the mayor does not provide information on written requests either. The mayor has already lost two access to information cases in court initiated by the citizen Ivan Atanasov, who is recognized with a Right to Know Day diploma..
The Tied Key anti-award for an absurd administrative practice on an access to information request is given to the Municipality of Pazardzhik. The mayor not only refused access to information, lost the case at two court instancs and had to be reminded to provide the requested information afterwards, but he demanded the amount of 3,312.54 BGN (1,700 Euro) to copy 36,806 pages which were not the subject of the request after all.
For a second successive year, the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Waters joined the celebration of the International Right to Know Day by organizing an “Open Doors” event for all its regional administrations. The Minister Nora Karadzhova sent a greeting address to AIP and the participants in the 10th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria.
Pictures from the ceremony can be found at AIP web site: http://www.aip-bg.org/about/gallery/106985/.
The organization and holding of the 2012 Right to Know Day in Bulgaria is supported by a grant from the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
For a third year, presents for two winners were provided by Cantek Bulgaria and Tehnopolis Bulgaria. CIELA Soft and Publishing and Damianitza JSC kindly contributed to the celebration of the Right to Know Day again.