Court appeals




Public access to the sessions of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC)

Vassil Chobanov vs. The Supreme Judicial Council
1st Instance Court – Supreme Administrative Court, 4th Division, Administrative Case No. 7897/2004

An amendment of the Judicial Branch Act provided that the sessions of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) were public. The amendment became effective as of April 9, 2004. However, the sessions remained closed and the SJC announced that they were going to interpret the term “public.” In May 2004, four journalists – Vassil Chobanov (Radio New Europe), Bogdanka Lazarova (Darik Radio), Elena Encheva (Sega newspaper) and Petya Vladimirova (Dnevnik newspaper) – filed a request with the SJC demanding full access to the Council’s next ten sessions. The request suggested that access be provided by means of a video camera and microphone, due to the limited capacity of the SJC conference hall.

The request of the four journalists had not been discussed at the following session of the SJC.

The journalists challenged the tacit refusal before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC). The Council did not send a representative to the court hearing, and the judges adjourned for their final decision.

The ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court reversed the tacit refusal by the SJC and returned the information request to the respondent with instructions how to apply the law. The text of the decision stressed that the concept of public by definition means accessible to members of society. Therefore, the SJC has an obligation to ensure that their meetings are open to all members of society, including the media, who is incumbent upon to publish information of public interest. The judges also stated that the choice of the specific information technology by which access to information is provided was in the authority of the public institution. The decision of the SAC was final.

At the first SJC session following the court decision, all journalists were invited into the conference hall to attend the meeting. Subsequently, two cameras have been installed in the hall and journalists have access to the sessions by means of broadcasts in another room.

English Version • Last Update: 22.03.2006 • © 1999 Copyright by Interia & AIP