11 June 2007

In its decision, as of June 11, 2007, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) upheld the decision of the Sofia City Court (SCC) which had repealed the tacit refusal of the Director of the National Intelligence Services (NIS) to provide journalist Hristo Hristov access to documents related the murder of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov.

 

In its decision, the SAC rejected the arguments stated by the NIS in the court appeal. The justices assumed that the legislator did not exclude the NIS from the bodies obliged to provide information to the citizens under the Access to Public Information Act. The right of access may be subject to restriction if the requested information was classified. Even in those cases, the justices emphasized, citizens had the right to receive the requested information. In cases under Art. 34, Para. 3 of the Protection of Classified Information Act (PCIA), when the time period for the protection of classified information had expired, the status of classification should be removed. According to the justices, the Sofia City Court had rightly raised the question why, considering the existing circumstances, the information had not been submitted to the State Archive pursuant to Art. 33, Para. 2 of the PCIA. The argument of the NIS that the information was not public since foreign persons’ interests were affected had been rejected. According to the court panel, the requested information was public since the requestor may have formed opinion about the activities of the security services during the socialist times. The court decision stated that it was not the obligation of the requestor to prove that the institution held the requested information. Thus, the argument of the NIS that it had not been proved that NIS was the institution holding the documents was ungrounded. Even the contrary, it was the institution which best knew the kind, volume and form of the information which it held and should state that in its response to the requestor under the APIA. The court decision is final.

 

Access to Information Programme provided the legal help to the journalist Hristo Hristov from Dnevnik daily newspaper. The court case was started in 2004 and won at a first instance in 2006. The journalist requested key documents from the First Bureau of the former State Security Services regarding the murder of the dissident writer Georgi Markov in London in 1978, which are held in the National Intelligence Services. In 2004, the journalist won a case against the then Minister of Interior, Georgi Petkanov who had refused access to the Ministry of Interior Archive. As a result of the SAC decision, Minister Petkanov provided the requested documents.