On December 12, 2014, in Central Hotel Forum in Sofia, the Access to Information Programme (AIP) held a conference “Are Amendments to the Access to Information Legislation Necessary?”
The Conference was organized within the implementation of the project Advocacy Campaign for Amendments to the Access to Information Legislation, supported by a grant under the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009 – 2014 www.ngogrants.bg
Nearly hundred representatives of NGOs, citizens, lawyers, chairpersons of administrative courts and public officials responsible for the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) implementation from all over the country took part in the Conference.
The aim of the Conference was to present and discuss the Concept on Amendments to the ATI Legislation (in Bulgarian) drafted by AIP on the base of the results from five public discussions with interested groups of information seekers and providers; from a nationwide online consultation, and on the base of accumulated experience in the APIA implementation.
The Executive Director of AIP, Ms. Gergana Jouleva opened the Conference outlining the history of the APIA adoption and its amendments and AIP role in this process.
The National Ombudsman Mr. Konstantin Penchev presented his practices with regard to referred cases related to the APIA implementation. He stated that the need for APIA amendments is apparent.
Ms. Kalina Dimitrova, an expert from the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications presented the draft bill for APIA amendments which would introduce the revised Directive 2013/37/EU on the Re-use of Public Sector Information, prepared by a working group at the Ministry. She responded to a number of questions related to the forthcoming amendments.
Mr. Dimitar Dimitrov from the organization Obshtestvo.bg (Society.bg) presented the draft version of the platform for filing electronic ATI requests Pitaigi.bg.
The second part of the Conference was dedicated to the prepared by AIP Concept on Amendments to the Access to Public Information Legislation.
The Concept was drafted by AIP on the base of a review of international standards in the access to information area, analysis of identified problems stemming from the APIA implementation practices, as well as systematization of the statements for APIA amendments made within 5 public discussions, held by AIP, with interested groups of information seekers and providers.
Ms. Gergana Jouleva, the Executive Director of AIP, presented the international standards in the proactive publication of information area, the Bulgarian legislation, identified problems with the implementation of the obligations for publish information online and possible solutions for their overcoming.
The benefits of open data for both the public bodies and the citizens were presented by Mr. Anton Stoichev from the organization Obshtestvo.bg
Attorney Kiril Terziiski from AIP legal team presented problems and proposals for their overcoming related to the seeking and provision of information electronically.
The head of AIP legal team Alexander Kashumov presented proposals for improvement of the access to information legislation with regard to the restrictions of the right to information.
Attorney Darina Palova from AIP legal team presented problems with the imposition of sanctions under the APIA.
After the presentation of the effective legislation and the practices related to the coordination and control over the implementation of the APIA by attorney Kashumov, the Conference ended with a discussion on the need for an independent enforcement mechanism – establishment of an Information Commissioner.