The Access to Information Programme (AIP) presented findings and recommendations on the state of access to information in Bulgaria in 2016 at a press conference held in the Bulgarian News Agency on May 17, 2017.
The AIP seventeenth report contains:
- recommendations related to the access to information legal framework and its implementation;
- assessment of the regulations in the access to information area;
- analysis of the results from the assessment of the proactive transparency of 566 institutions for 2017;
- analyses of the access to information cases referred to AIP for legal help and consultation during 2016;
- tendencies in the court practices on access to information cases in 2016 and summaries of cases in which AIP has provided court representation.
The 2016 report contains 7 Appendices.
Based on the analysis of the legislation and practices, the authors of the report Gergana Jouleva, Alexander Kashumov, Darina Palova, Kiril Terziiski, and Stephan Anguelov make recommendations for improving the state of access to information in Bulgaria, enhancing government transparency and accountability.
The recommendations related to the legislation and its implementation include:
- Amendments to the Access to Public Information Act that would:
- establish an independent oversight body on the APIA implementation;
- provide for effective mechanism of sanctions for incompliance with the APIA and expedited court procedure in access to information cases;
- repeal the imposing of attorneys’ fees in court cases claiming a violation of the access to information right;
- encompass all bodies with a capital owned by the State or the municipalities, or providing public services as a contractor to the State or the municipalities.
- Amendments to the Protection of Classified Information Act that would introduce:
- a ban for classification as a state or official secret of information related to violations of human rights or concealing corruption and crime;
- automatic declassification of specific categories of classified information;
- an obligation for the institutions to publish their lists of declassified documents.
Other recommendations related to the legislation are:
- to adopt provisions for transparency of the sessions and the meetings of the state authorities related to their activities by the establishment of obligations for record keeping (open government), and
- the Government to undertake steps for signing and ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (CETS No.205).
The AIP formulates specific recommendations with regard to the implementation of the obligation for maintaining of Access to Information Sections on institutional web sites and with regard to the proactive publication of information online:
- to reach a 100% compliance with the obligation for having an Access to Information Section on the web site;
- to position the section in the main menu of the web site of the institution;
- to publish in an open text explanatory information for citizens on how to exercise their right to information within a specific institution;
- to review and amend the internal APIA implementation rules in compliance with the new obligations for proactive publication and the changes in the law (as of December 2015), to assign the teams responsible for these activities, as well as for the oversight of the implementation of the obligations, including these related to the proactive publication of information;
- to pay attention to the indications for the update of the information, published on the web sites;
- to comply with the norms determining the costs for the provision of information under the Minister of Finance Order No. 1472 as of 29 November 2011.
Access to Information in Bulgaria 2016, Access to Information Programme, 2017, p. 60, ISSN 1314-0515.
The text of the report in Bulgarian: http://store.aip-bg.org/publications/ann_rep_bg/report2016.pdf.
English translation will follow soon.
The report is prepared within the project Civil Center for Support of Transparency in Public Life, supported with a grant by the America for Bulgaria Foundation.