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Make Aid Transparent: Global Coalition Launches Call for More Transparent Aid
On June 8, 2011, a coalition of more than forty civil society groups from twenty countries around the world today launched a campaign Make Aid Transparent, which calls on governments and other aid donors to publish more and better information about the money they give.

At the centre of the campaign, whose members include Access to Information Programme, and over twenty groups from developing countries, is a petition aimed at donor governments to make their aid more transparent.

“Providing more and better information about aid isn’t hard, and it will help save lives, reduce corruption and waste and deliver lasting positive change in the world’s poorest countries,” the petition reads.

Alongside the petition, which is hosted at www.makeaidtransparent.org and on a number of participating organisation’s websites, is an animation that explains why aid transparency is important.

On May 04, 2011 AIP held a presconference in the Bulgarian News Agency to present its annual report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2010 .The eleven access to information report contains:

  • recommendations for facilitating the access to information and increasing the transparency and accountability of public administration;
  • detailed analysis of the existing FOI legislation and ammendments during 2010.
  • results from the AIP assesment on the online publication of certain categories of information by the administrative structures of the executive power;
  • analyses of the access to information cases referred to AIP for legal help and consulation during 2010;
  • an overview of the most interesting developments in the FOI litigation in 2010, including summaries of cases in which AIP has provided court representation.
The focus of the report is the active publication of information, the need for control over the implementation of the obligations and sactions for failure to comply with the requirements of the law.

The report is published with the support of the Trust for Civil Society in CEE under the project Support to Access to Information Programme as a Freedom of Information Civic Resource Center and of the America fo Bulgaria Foundation under the project Responding to the New Demand for Freedom of Information.


Active Transparency in Bulgaria Still Insufficient: Results from AIP audit on institutional web sites 2011: AIP team performed an audit on the institutional web sites within 22.02 - 25.03.2011 with the purpose to evaluate the implementation of the obligations under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) for online publication of certain categories of information and under other regulations for active disclosure of public information by the executive power bodies at a central, regional, and local level.

The analysis and the comparative data for 2010 and 2011 are part of the AIP annual report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2010 which was presented on May 4, 2011 at a special pressconference in Sofia. Author of the analysis of the results is Gergana Jouleva, AIP Executive Director.

AIP has reviewed 495 web sites out of a total of 516. 21 institutions have still not maintained official web sites.
The web sites audit was based on three groups of indicators which encompass standards for active disclosure of information: 

  • Institutional information - legal basis of the institution, functions, services provided, data bases and information resources;
  • Organizational structure and contact information
  • Financial and other transparency – budgets and financial reports, conflict of interests declarations;
  • Existence and content of the Access to Information sections 

Also, 505 requests were filed electronically for access to the Internal APIA Implementation Rules in an electronic form, or by signifying the exact link to the web address where they could be found.

Results by indicators and by institutions in Bulgarian.

The audit was performed with the support of the Trust for Civil Society in CEE under the project Support to Access to Information Programme as a Freedom of Information Civic Resource Center


International “Access to Information Litigation in Bulgaria” Conference was held on April 15, 2011 in Sofia.
The conference was organized and held by AIP in the frame of the project Pushing for Accountability of Government through ATI Legal Assistance and Litigation, financed by the Open Society Institute, Human Rights and Governance Grants Program, Budapest.

Among the 100 participants were lawyers, judges from administrative courts, representatives of NGOs, media, activists, citizens who have submitted ATI requests and have appealed refusals in the court.

The Ombudsman of Bulgaria, Mr. Konstantin Penchev and the Chairperson of the Administrative Court Sofia City, Mr. Lozan Panov addressed the audience at the opening. Foreign experts from Armenia, Hungary, Rumania, Slovakia, and UK took part in the conference. They discussed the access to information litigation experience accumulated in Bulgaria during 2009-2011, more precisely related to the exemptions of the right of access to information; to access to public bodies contracts; openness of decision-making process; and access to information of high public interest. Please, refer to the agenda of the conference.
Experience in the defense of the right of access to information at an European level was shared by Mr. Tony Bunyan (Director of Statewatch).
Pictures from the conference can be viewed here.


Mr. Filipov presents the award to Ms. Gergana Jouleva, AIP executive director

AIP recognized for contribution to the development of civil society in Bulgaria
On March 31, 2011, at a ceremony in Studio 5 – Sofia, Access to Information Programme was recognized with a Vidko award for contribution to the development of civil society on Bulgaria. The awards are presented by the Civil Association Vidovden and the Civil Movement DNES. The co-chairpersons of Vidovden Ms. Anjelika Tsokova and Mr. Vasil Filipov presented the prizes in four categories: Person Involved in Public Matters, Model Citizen, Non-governmental Organization, and Work in Public Interest.

The Vidko award is the second prize which AIP receives in Bulgaria. In 2010, the Committee for Disclosing the Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Army recognized AIP with a plaque for contribution to the opening of the archives of the communist secret services and a diploma for strengthening the reputation of the Committee.



Gergana Jouleva, PhD announces the awardees

“Big Brother” Anti-Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria
Access to Information Programme (AIP) and Internet Society Bulgaria held the Big Brother Anti-awards ceremony in Bulgaria on February 16, 2011, 11.00, at the National Presscenter of the Bulgarian News Agency.

The awards are given to government institutions, private companies, or individuals, who have done the most to invade personal privacy. Among the nominations are: the Parliamentary Standing Subcommittee for oversight and monitoring of application of special intelligence means,  the Minister of Internal Affairs, Alcatel-Lucent Company, Alpha Bank – Bulgaria,  a hospital in the town of Smolian, and even the Electronic Communications Act, effective as of May 10, 2010.

The jury had to select a state institution and a private company which had mostly deserved a special place among those who were nominated for violating the right of privacy for the past year.

Minutes of Meetings of the Head of State are Official Information and Shall Be Released to the Public. With a decision as of November 11, 2010, the Bulgarian court compelled the President Georgi Parvanov to disclose minutes of the meeting with the former Russian President Vladimir Putin held in January 2008. The complaint against the silent refusal of the President’s administration was brought by the journalist Lachezar Lisicov with the help of Access to Information Programme (AIP). The minutes were of a huge public interest as crucial energy projects and strategy were discussed during the meeting.

The book Buying/ Selling the Danube Coast (10 Years APIA, 60 stories by journalists) was presented on November 26, 2010 in the Helikon Bookstore (4 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd), Sofia.  

Buying/ Selling the Danube Coast (10 Years APIA, 60 stories by journalists) is part of AIP strategy to mark the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Access to Public Information Act (APIA).
A compiler and editor of the book is Nikolay N. Ninov, a coordinator of the AIP network of journalists in the country. The stories are written by the AIP coordinators within the period 2003 – 2010. Most of them were published in AIP monthly newsletter, the rest in the media journalists work for. Some texts were amended, updated or originally written for the purposes of the book. 

Buying/ Selling the Danube Coast is a mixture of journalistic styles. AIP coordinators report the emblematic APIA litigation cases, tell about the access to information experience of NGOs, journalists and citizens.  The book is a chronology of the uneasy way walked along by the authorities and the civil society during the ten years of APIA implementation in Bulgaria. The book addresses journalists, legal experts, NGOs and citizens who are concerned about the quality of the public information, about its restrictions, the violations in the process of its provision, and the mechanisms for the protection of the right to information.

Buying/Selling the Danube Coast is published within the framework of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by AIP in cooperation with the The Management & Media Academy/Free Voice.
You can buy the book in the Helikon Bookstores or AIP office.  

Pictures from the presentation of the book at AIP Facebook site.

AIP held a meeting with the coordinators from the country and journalists from local and regional media.
The meeting was held on November 26, 2010 in Dessislava Hall in Grand Hotel Bulgaria, Sofia. The purpose of the meeting was to make a review of the results achieved within the three-years project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by AIP in cooperation with the The Management & Media Academy/Free Voice. Remarks and conclusions were shared by the Dutch FOI expert Roger Vleugels who took part in the 26 training seminars held in the regional cities in the Country. Mr. Martijn Elgersma, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sofia.

2010 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony – video clips (in Bulgarian)
On September 28, 2010 AIP held the Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony  for the eighth successive year. Over 100 representatives of NGOs, public officials, journalists, lawyers, partners, and friends of AIP attended the ceremony held in the Bulgarian News Agency. You can watch seven video clips covering the 2010 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria.
The videos were produced by a team of ProMedia - Broadcasting Training Center Foundation within the framework of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by AIP in cooperation with the The Management & Media Academy/Free Voice.


Opening of the workshop in Kardjali

In 4-6 October 2010, AIP held the last three training workshops with journalists from local media in the towns of Haskovo, Kardjali, and Smolyan. Kiril Terziiski, a lawyer at the AIP legal team presented cases of journalistic investigations completed with the help of the Access to Public Information Act and following litigation proceedings in cases of denials. Tactics for successful use of the law by journalists were also presented. The Dutch FOI expert, Mr. Roger Vleugels, presented tactics and cases of journalists from Holland. The movie Media and Access to Information - Five Investigative Reporter Stories was shown at all workshops.

Thus the number of training workshops held with Bulgarian journalists from local and regional media has become 26.

The workshops were organized within the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Right to Know Day 2010
The eighth annual Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria was held on September 28, 2010 at 5 p.m. in the National Press Center of the Bulgarian News Agency (49 Tsarigradsko shose Blvd) in Sofia.
The awards committee chose the winners in six categories out of 45 collected nominations. See pictures from the ceremony on AIP Facebook page.

The organization and holding of the 2010 Right to Know Day in Bulgaria is supported by a grant from the Trust for Civil Society in CEE and by the America for Bulgaria Foundation.
In 2010, Company provides a present for one of the winners in the categories for Golden Key Awards: Canon PIXMA MP260 Printer/Scanner/Copier. Technopolis Bulgaria also provides a present. We have the kind contribution of JSC and again.

 

Access Point: AIP launched its blog.
You can find news and comments on hot access to information topics. Still only in Bulgarian.

 

 


Bulgarian Parliament Willing to Ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents
To mark ten years of the adoption of the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act (APIA), Access to Information Programme organized a conference on July 26, 2010. The conference was held under the auspices of the Chairperson of the Bulgarian National Assembly Ms. Tsetska Tsacheva. The purpose of the conference was to discuss possibilities of Bulgaria’s accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents on the base of ten years experience of the Access to Public Information Act implementation. Bulgarian APIA is in act since July 7, 2000.

 

AIP supports the call for an end to compulsory telecommunications data retention. In a joint letter as of 22 June 2010, more than 100 organisations from 23 European countries asked EU Commissioners Malmström, Reding and Kroes to "propose the repeal of the EU requirements regarding data retention in favour of a system of expedited preservation and targeted collection of traffic data".

On May 12, 2010, AIP submitted an Opinion Statement to the State Commission on Information Security with regard to the proposed mandatory instructions on the correct processing with data collected by intercept devices. According to Appendix No. 1, List of Categories of Information Subject to Classification as State Secret, to Art. 25 of the Protection of Classified Information Act (PCIA), such information shall be classified. This is an important obstacle to the civil control over the interference with the fundamental right to privacy. Furthermore, the protection of information collected by special intelligence intercepts is the reason to classify court cases of high public interest only because evidence were collected by intercept devices. AIP stressed that classification of such information falls outside the scope of the protected interests, listed in Art. 25 of the PCIA, namely the national security, the defence, the foreign policy or the protection of the constitutionally established order. AIP recommended classification of information collected by intercept devices threatening these interests to be done on case by case basis, by applying the harm test and according to the constitutional principle according to which the right of access to information is the principle and every limitation must be exceptional. The statement is available in Bulgarian ( 162Kb)

On April 29, 2010 AIP held a presconference in the Bulgarian News Agency to present its annual report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2009

The report includes:

  • recommendations for facilitating the access to information and increasing the transparency and accountability of public administration with a focus on the implementation o fthe obligations for online publication;
  • comparative analysis between the Access to Public Information Act and the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents ;
  • results from the survey on the online publication of certain categories of information by the administrative structures of the executive power;
  • analyses of the access to information cases consulted by AIP legal team during 2009;
  • an overview of the most interesting developments in the FOI litigation in 2009, including resumes of cases in which AIP has provided court representation;
  • results from a representative public opinion poll on public attitudes regarding the right of access to information.

The report is published with the support of the Trust for Civil Society in CEE under the project Support to Access to Information Programme as a Freedom of Information Civic Resource Center.


Participants in the workshop in Plovdiv

In 12-14 April 2010, AIP held three more training workshops with journalists from local media in the towns of Pazardjik, Plovdiv and Stara Zagora. Kiril Terziiski, a lawyer at the AIP legal team presented cases of journalistic investigations completed with the help of the Access to Public Information Act and following litigation proceedings in cases of denials. Tactics for successful use of the law by journalists were also presented. The Dutch FOI expert, Mr. Roger Vleugels, presented tactics and cases of journalists from Holland. The movie Media and Access to Information - Five Investigative Reporter Stories was shown at all workshops.

The workshops were organized within the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Access to Information Programme starts the implementation of the project Responding to the New Demand for Freedom of Information. The project is supported by a grant for 36-month period of the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

The America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) assists in the development and growth of a vibrant private sector for the benefit of a free and democratic Bulgaria.Founded in 2008, the ABF is a successor to the Bulgarian American Enterprise Fund, an investment fund created by the U.S. government acting through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The grants provided by ABF will build on the legacy of goodwill and friendship that exists between the American people and the citizens of Bulgaria.


The Chairperson of the Committee, Evtim Kostadinov, presents the award to Gergana Jouleva, AIP Executive Director

Bulgarian Committee for Disclosing the Documents of the Former State Security Services Awarded Access to Information Programme for Contribution to the Opening of the Archives
On April 8, 2010, in the New Conference Hall of the Sofia University Kliment Ohridski, on its third anniversary, the Committee for Disclosing the Documents and Announcing Affiliation of Bulgarian citizens to the State Security and the Intelligence Services of the Bulgarian National Army gave awards to two nongovernmental organizations and two journalists. Access to Information Programme (AIP) was recognized with a plaque for contribution to the opening of the archives of the communist secret services and a diploma for strengthening the reputation of the Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 16, 2010, at a press conference at the Bulgarian News Agency, AIP and Market LINKS presented the results from two surveys:

Assessment of the Internet sites of the institutions from the point of view of the Access to Public Information Act; and
Representative public opinion poll on public attitudes regarding the right of access to information
.

AIP performed the assessment of the institutional web sites within 10.02.2010 - 02.03.2010 with the purpose to evaluate the implementation of the obligations under Art. 15a of the Access to Public Information Act for online publication of certain categories of information by the executive power bodies at a central, regional, and lical level. Pursuant to the December 2008 amendments to the APIA, the period for preparation ended in December 2009. AIP has reviewed 499 web sites out of a total of 511. Comparative results from the assessment of institutional web sites performed by AIP in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 ( 409Kb).
Analysis of the results is available in AIP annual report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2009 ().

A second wave of a representative public opinion poll on public attitudes regarding the right of access to information was performed by Market LINKS at the demand of AIP in February 2010. Results are available here (177Kb).
The first wave of thenational representative public opinion poll was performed in September 2008 among adult Bulgarian population, as well as among Bulgarian journalists from electronic and printed media. You can read the summary of the results ( 87 Kb) and also see the main results ( 152 Kb).

The two surveys were performed with the support of the Trust for Civil Society in CEE within the project Support to Access to Information Programme as a Freedom of Information Civic Resource Center.

Access to Information Programme Launched a Campaign on New Standards in Access to Information. In order to enhance the execution of the right of access to information in Bulgaria in line with 2008 amendments to the Access to Public Information Act and push for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, Access to Information Programme (AIP) initiated Public Awareness Campaign on New Standards in the Access to Information Area. The campaign is supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Financial Mechanism.


AIP executive director, Ms. Gergana Jouleva, prsents the award to Ms. Stela Kovacheva

AIP held the annual meeting with the journalists from the coordinators’ network on February 5, 2010.
The meeting was organized within the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Gergana Jouleva, AIP executive director, made and overview of the key achievements of AIP during the past 2009. Results are presented in the annual report of the organization. The goals and tasks of the coordinators’ network for 2010 were outlined. The newly launched  Public Awareness Campaign on New Standards in the Access to Information Area was presented. Alexander Kashumov, the head of AIP legal team, presented the results from the AIP run campaign with regard to proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act.

AIP gave the Coordinator of the Year Award for a third successive year. Stela Kovacheva, AIP coordinator for the region of Razgrad, was acknowledged for her active engagement in the coordinators’ network, timely and efficient coverage  of AIP initiatives, participation in access to information campaigns on a local level.

In 2008 and 2009, AIP has organized and held workshops with journalists from local media in twenty Bulgarian cities within the implementation of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed by the MATRA Programme of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At these seminars, cases of journalistic investigations completed with the help of the APIA and following litigation proceedings were presented. Tactics for successful use of the law by journalists were also presented. The Dutch FOI expert, Mr. Roger Vleugels, presented tactics and cases of journalists from Holland. Two special documentaries were produced:
The special documentary “Media and Access to Information - Five Investigative Reporter Stories” which presents five emblematic access to information litigation proceedings of journalists from national media was shown at all workshops and copies were left for broadcast by local TV stations. The movie is accessible at: http://www.aip-bg.org/matra/documentaryen.php with English and Russian subtitles.
Also, the thirty-minute documentary Right to Know Day is distributed among the participants.

Litigation on access to information in Bulgaria 2009 – trends and conclusions. During 2009 a large number of lawsuits for access to information were brought with the AIP legal support. As in previous years some court battles have been successful, others have been lost. Some, such as the story related to the contract between the Bulgarian administration and Microsoft have been again postponed. The rich case law allows us to draw some conclusions and trends in the court practice.   

Dubious amendments to the Electronic Communications Act passed first reading in the Bulgarian Parliament. Despite the broad public and media campaign against certain proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, they passed first reading in the parliament on December 22, 2009. Despite the public consultation initiated by the Ministry of Interior, the amendments intend to introduce direct access of the MoI to citizens’ telecommunication data. AIP has led been leading the campaign against uncontrolled access to the telecommunication data for a second successive year.

On October 7, 2009 AIP submitted an Opinion Statement to the Parliamentary Internal Security and Public Order Committee with regard to proposed amendments to the Ministry of Interior Act. The draft law aims to introduce amendments to the Protection of Classified Information Act (PCIA), precisely to Appendix 1 to Art. 25 which comprises a List of Categories of Information Subject to Classification as State Secret. This initiative opens an opportunity for a revision of the List in Appendix 1 to Art. 25 of the PCIA and reducing the number and the scope of the categories of information subject to classification as state secret. AIP stated the concern that some categories provided by the law constitute an outdated understanding for secrecy which contradicts the principles of transparency, accountability and unrestricted access to public information. AIP also sent the Statement to the Ministry of Interior.

The December 5, 2008 amendments to the APIA introduced the obligation for the institutions to publish certain categories of information in the Internet (Art.15a). In order to facilitate institutions in the active disclosure of information online, AIP developed a model web site for institutions almost two years ago. The model is uploaded at: http://www.aip-bg.org/model/ and contains information that institutions are obliged to publish under the APIA and other legal regulations, as well as references to institutions which have already fulfilled the obligation. Under the law, institutions have to complete the preparation and fulfill their obligations till December 5, 2009.


Maria Zlatareva, Assistant Resident Representative, UNDP presents the Certificate to AIP Executive Director - Gergana Jouleva, PhD

On September 30, 2009, AIP was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation in Recognition of a Longstanding Partnership and Committment to the Advancement of the Right to Know and Democratic Governance by the UNDP - Bulgaria. Within the period March 2007 - December 2008 AIP was supported by the UNDP in the implementation of the project Increasing Government Transparency and Accountability through Electronic Access to Information.

 

The seventh annual Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria was held on September 28, 2009 at 10 a.m. in the National Press Center of the Bulgarian News Agency in Sofia. Positive awards for achievements and negative awards for "mischievements" in the FOI area were given in seven categories – five positive and two negative.
Pictures from the 2009 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony.

A thirty-minute documentary Right to Know Day was produced by a team of ProMedia - Broadcasting Training Center Foundation within the framework of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria implemented by The Management&Media Academy/Free Voice and AIP with the financial support of the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The movie is in Bulgarian but is accessible with subtitles in English as well.

AIP published the fourth edition of the handbook for citizens How to Get Access to Information? The text of the handbook is in line with the last amendments to the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act from December 2008. The handbook is available online in Bulgarian: http://www.aip-bg.org/pdf/handbook2009.pdf.

On 8 May 2009, at a press conference at the Bulgarian News Agency AIP presented its Annual Report Access to Information in Bulgaria, 2008. The Report contains recommendations for improving the access to information practices within the Bulgarian public institutions. And also:

  • detailed analysis of the 2008 changes in ATI legislation and practices with a special emphasis on the the 2008 amendments to the Access to Public Information Act;
  • results from a survey on whether and how the institutions handle electronic requests;
  • characteristics of the specific cases consulted by Access to Information Programme legal team;
  • and an overview of the most interesting developments in the FOI litigation in 2008, including resumes of cases in which AIP has provided court representation.


National “Access to Information Litigation in Bulgaria” Conference was organized and held on March 27, 2009 in Sofia. The conference was organized and held by AIP in the frame of the project Promotion of Open Government through FOI Legal Assistance and Litigation, financed by the Open Society Institute, Human Rights and Governance Grants Program, Budapest.

Among the 90 participants were lawyers, judges from administrative courts, representatives of NGOs, media, activists, citizens who have submitted ATI requests and have appealed refusals in the court. The Chairperson of the Supreme Administrative Court, Mr. Konstantin Penchev addressed the audience at the opening. Foreign experts from Ukraine, Georgia, Spain, Macedonia, the Netherlands, and UK took part in the conference.
Experience in the defense of the right of access to information at an European level was shared by Mr. Tony Bunyan (Director of Statewatch), Ms. Eva Moraga (Legal Advisor, Access Info Europe), and Roger Vleugels (Dutch FOI expert), Mr. Roman Romanov (Rule of Law Program Director at the International Renaissance Foundation Ukraine), and Mr. Roger Vleugels (Dutch FOI expert).
Among the topics discussed were the 2008 amendments to the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act; issues and results from AIP litigation practices on the Access to Public Information Act during 2005-2008; the trade secret and protection of personal data exemption; preparatory documents exemption; access to information and classified information; the scope of the definition of information; the execution of court judgments. Please, refer to the agenda of the conference http://www.aip-bg.org/pdf/agenda2009_eng.pdf. Pictures from the conference can be viewed here.

Access to Information Litigation in Bulgaria 2005-2008: Selected Cases, volume 4 is available in English. The book was published in 2008. It contains analytical part, which reviews the main problems related to the court practice with regard to the Access to Public Information Act during the last years. The analysis encompasses the development of both cases related to the exercise of the right of access to public information and to the implementation of the exemptions from the right of access to information. Summaries and twenty-seven decisions on 14 court cases in which AIP legal team has provided legal help, including court representation, were included as appendices to the book.

At the presentation of the volume 4 of the Access to Public Information Litigation in Bulgaria (2005-2008), the Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court, Mr. Konstantin Penchev noted:
We may have the best laws, but we have to implement them, i.e. the society shall make the mechanism work. I would like to thank to the Access to Information Programme because theymade the court think over and apply the law. They made the court answer – sometimes correctly, sometimes not, but developing its practices – the questions set forth.


Gergana Jouleva presents the award to Tsvetan Todorov

AIP held the annual meeting with the journalists from the coordinators’ network on February 6, 2009 in Sofia.
The meeting was organized within the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, implemented by The Management&Media Academy/Free Voice and AIP with the financial support of the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Gergana Jouleva, AIP executive director, made and overview of the results achievements during the first year of implementation of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria and outlined the tasks for 2009. Alexander Kashumov, the head of AIP legal team, presented the last amendments to the Access to Public Information Act and results from the AIP run campaign with regard to proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act and AIP initiated litigation against Regulation 40 of the Ministry of Interior and the SCITC. Kiril Terziiski, a lawyer in the legal team of AIP, presented the legal help provided in information cases of journalists.

AIP gave the Coordinator of the Year Award for a second successive year. Tsvetan Todorov, AIP coordinator for the region of Lovech, was acknowledged for his active use of the Access to Public Information Act in his journalistic work, including the defense of his right to information in court, and reporting on these developments. Pictures of the meeting.

 

Big Brother Award

2009 Big Brother Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria
On January 28, 2009, Access to Information Programme and Internet Society Bulgaria organized the Big Brother Awards ceremony. It was held at the National Presscenter of the Bulgarian News Agency. The jury selected an institution and a company that have extensively violated the right to privacy and the protection of personal data for the last year in Bulgaria. These were the Ministry of Interior and the electricity syply company CEZ Distrubution Bulgaria JSC.



The Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) repealed a provision of the Data Retention in the Internet Regulation. With a decision as of December 11, 2008 a five-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) repealed a provision of the Bulgarian Regulation # 40 transposing the Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC). The Regulation was issued by the State Agency on Information Technologies and Communication (SAITC) and the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and promulgated in the State Gazette on January 29, 2008. AIP challenged the Regulation submitting a complaint to the SAC on March 19, 2008 arguing that its adoption is in violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Union legislation. More information...
Information about the litigation can be found here
.

 

Alexander Kashumov, Head of the AIP legal team, was recognized as the 2008 "Attorney of the Year" by the Legal World magazine.
It is the second time the magazine presents the awards. The nominations are based on the results from two public opinion polls among judges and lawyers from the country. The magazine also performed a survey among journalists who cover the judiciary. Alexander Kashumov was nominated on the base of the results from that survey. The awards ceremony was held on December 2, 2009.
Interview with Alexander Kashumov in Bulgarian is published in the November issue of AIP FOI Newsletter.

 

 

 

National Assembly of Bulgaria

On December 5, 2008, key amendments to the Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act were promulgated. The amendments reflect necessary changes which AIP has formulated and recommended in 2007 and 2008 in its annual reports Access to Information in Bulgaria. They were introduced through two draft laws that according to the rules for the work of the National Assembly were combined before the parliamentarian vote. The amendments introduce extended scope of obliged bodies by including the regional offices of the central authorities; and bodies financed under EU programs and funds; the obligation for the provision of partial access to information; the obligation for proactive publication of information online; and the public interest test. More information...

 

În 27 November 2008,the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the Convention on Access to Official Documents.
Tha drafting process started in January 2006 and ended in February 2008 and was accompaned by a widespread campaign by the three observing organizations: Access Info Europe, Article 19 and Open Society Justice Initiative. Their recommendations that the first binding treaty on access to information shall establish higher standards guaranteeing the full exercise of that right were supported by more than 250 civil society groups from all over the world, 12 Information Commissioners, by the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, by the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services, and by the Parlamentary Assembly (Opinion No. 270 2008). However, they were not taken into consideration. Now they recommend the establishment of a monitoring body to oversee the Convention and propose amendments which could strengthen the treaty in the future.

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On September 28, 2008 AIP held the sixth annual Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in BulgariaMore than 100 people attended. Special guests were Mr. Nikolay Vasilev, Minister of State Administration and Administrative Reform, Ms. Vera Illes, Programme Manager at The Management & Media Academy/Free Voice. Awards were given in seven categories - five positive and two negative.

 

 

On 11 September 2008 the journalist Hristo Hristov from Dnevnik newspaper presented his new book "The Dual Life of Agent Piccadilly." The book discloses unknown facts about the involvement of the Bulgarian communist secret services in the assassination of the BBC journalist Georgy Markov in London in 1978. The documents underlying the book were obtained through the Access to Public information Act and with the legal assistance of AIP. Information about the investigation and other books of Hristo Hristov.


Documentary Media and Access to Information - Five Investigative Reporter Stories
was produced by a team of ProMedia - Broadcasting Training Center Foundation within the framework of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria implemented by The Management&Media Academy/Free Voice and AIP with the financial support of the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The movie is accessible with subtitles in English and in Russian.

On May 9, 2008, Access to Information Programme (AIP) presented its Annual Report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2007 at a press conference held in the Bulgarian News Agency. The eight Report contains recommendations for improving the ATI legislation, the connected legislation and the practices within the Bulgarian public institutions; detailed analysis of last year's changes in ATI legislation and practices; characteristics of the cases that Access to Information Programme received for legal help during the year; results from a monitoring on the active provision of information by the institutions on their web sites; and an overview of the most interesting developments in the ATI court practices in 2007.
The 2007 Annual Report has a special focus on the electronic access to information. The English version can be found here.

Access to Information on institutional web sites in Bulgaria- 2008. For a third successive year, AIP conducted a study on the Internet sites of the institutions from the executive power. The purpose of the study, conducted by a group of reviewers from the AIP team, was to assess the level of development in the active provision of information on institutional Internet sites which is subject to publication by the institutions of the executive power in Bulgaria.

Access to Information Programme held a National Round Table (NRT) on March 14, 2008, Sofia.
Problems faced by nongovernmental organizations when they exercise their right of access to information were discussed and strategies for advocacy work in the area were be outlined at the forum.
Participants at the National Round Table discussed and adopted a Memorandum with specific recommendations for the improvement of the access to information situation in Bulgaria.

Gergana Jouleva presents the award to Diana Boncheva

On February 8, 2008, in Sofia, AIP held the annual meeting with the journalists from the coordinators’ network.
An overview of key achievements of AIP during the past 2007 were made and the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, financed through the MATRA program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was presented to AIP coordinators, all of them journalists in the 26 regional town in the country.

For the first time, AIP presented the Coordinator of the Year Award. Diana Boncheva, AIP coordinator for the region of Yambol was recognized as being most active and effective in her work as both journalist, using the access to information law, and AIP coordinator.

The meeting was organized within the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria, implemented by The Management&Media Academy/Free Voice and AIP with the financial support of the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Big Brother Awards Ceremony Held in Bulgaria
On January 28, 2008, Access to Information Programme and Internet Society Bulgaria presented the the Big Brother Awards at a special ceremony held in the Center of Culture and Debate The Red House. The jury recognized two Bulgarian institutions for their extensive violation of the right to privacy and the protection of personal data: the Ministry of Interior and the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria. Read more...

Bulgarian Court Repealed the Refusal of the Government to Provide Access to Contracts with Microsoft
In a decision, as of November 2, 2007, a panel of the Sofia City Court repealed the refusal of the Director of the Government Information Service (GIS) to provide access to information to the journalist from Capital weekly, Rosen Bosev. He requested information about the conditions under which the former minister of state administration, Mr. Dimitar Kalchev, signed a contract with Microsoft Company for the purchase of software licenses for the needs of the state administration, as well as a copy of the document itself. Read more

October 2007: Transparency of Municipal Expenses
The proceedings, initiated by the Editor in Chief of Noroden Glas (People’s Voice) newspaper at the town of Lovech, against the refusal of the mayor of the town to provide information, were stayed for the third time. According to the mayor, the requested information about the amount paid by the municipality for announcements in four media was protected data of the third parties. During the proceedings, it turned out that the representatives of the municipality did not know who was contacted in terms of these announcements and to whom the public money was paid after all. Two court sessions were necessary to clear out that issue. The Administrative Court in Lovech took the legal measure to sanction the municipal legal officer for not complying with court instructions within the time frames. At the last session, it turned out that the municipality had not signed contracts with the four media, which had dissented the provision of information about the amount of money they were paid from the budget. The pleadings of the parties will be heard on December 4, 2007. The case is supported by AIP.

October 2007: The Tacit Refusal is Legally Unacceptable!
With a decision as of October 2007, the Administrative Court in Yambol repealed the tacit refusal of the Mayor of Yambol. Three times during the year, the Mayor of the Municipality of Yambol had instructed the journalist Diana Boncheva from the local newspaper Tundza to particularize her request for access to information. The journalist particularized two times that she wanted access to the documents related to the presence of the mayor at his working place for a certain period of time. After the third “misunderstanding” of the request, the refusal of the mayor was challenged in the court. The court repealed the tacit refusal as an unacceptable legal phenomenon.

October 11, 2007: Approved Projects Under ISPA Should Be Public
On October 11, 2007, the Sofia City Court reviewed the complaint of Mr. Ivailo Hlebarov from the Environmental Association For the Earth against the refusal of the Ministry of Environment and Waters to provide documents under the ISPA Program of the European Union. Among the requested documents were the application forms, reports from the researches, the cost-and-benefit analyses, and the financial memoranda of the approved projects. According to the grounds stated by the ministry, the majority of those documents may not be provided since some of the tender procedures had not been completed. The complainant, as well as his legal representative Alexander Kashumov from AIP, emphasized the ambiguity of the argument. On one hand, the necessity for maximum transparency of the infrastructure projects, financed from the EU funds, is undoubted (including highways, the Vidin-Kalafat Bridge, Airport Sofia, etc). On the other hand, the submitted documents regarding already approved projects under the ISPA have no relation to following tender procedures. The court shall deliver a decision within 30 days.

Sessions of the Council for Electronic Media Shall be Transparent
The Sofia City Court shall decide within a month on the complaint of the Bulgarian Media Coalition against a refusal of the Council for Electronic Media (CEM). The CEM refused access to the discussions, which had led to the adoption of methods and evaluation criteria for applicants for radio and television licenses. According to the Council, the requested information was preparatory and included opinions of its members, which gave grounds for refusal under Art. 13, Para. 2, item 1 of the APIA. The Council also refused access to the application forms on the ground of trade secret. Since the CEM is a body with public functions and its sessions shall be public pursuant to the Radio and Television Law, the quoted exemption to the right of access is inapplicable. Unfilled application documents may not be anyone’s trade secret, according to the legal team of AIP.

Shall we Know About the Petrolgate Case?
Does the society have the right to know about the findings in the President’s report on the Petrolgate case? The answer of that question will become clear with the decision of the Sofia City Court on the case of Politika newspaper journalist Zoya Dimitrova. In 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court returned the file of the case for reconsideration to the first instance after giving explicit instructions for a review of the lawfulness of the classification of the report as state secret. The evidence collected showed that classification stamps were put, but they did not prove the grounds for the classification. An impression remained that the report, prepared by the secret services, did not contain the alleged secret data about the means for information collection, but findings of public interest. The report was prepared at the request of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria as a reaction to publications in an Arab newspaper about the trade involvement of Bulgarian companies, close to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, with Saddam Hussein’s regime in violation with the UN imposed embargo. A court decision shall be delivered till the end of November.

September 20, 2007: How Much Does the Repair of the Prime Minister’s Office Cost?
On September 20, 2007, a panel of the Administrative Court, Sofia, heard and scheduled for judgment a case against the refusal of the Director of the Government Information Services (GIS) to provide information about the repair works in the office of the Prime Minister in 2007. The refusal was issued in June 2007 after the request of the journalist Pavlina Trifonova from 24 Hours daily newspaper. As a response to her request, she received a letter from the Director of the GIS, which informed her that the repair works had been completed after signing a contract with the winner in a tender procedure under the Regulation for Assigning Special Public Procurements. The letter also contained scarce information on some of the requested points. With regard to the overall expenses of the repair works, the bids of the competing companies, as well as the price of each item bought in terms of the repair works, the Director of the GIS refused information on the grounds of Art. 37, Para. 2 of the Access to Public Information Act claiming that the information would have affected the interests of third parties and that they had not expressed their written consent for the provision of information. Besides, according to the Director of the GIS, the participants in the tender procedure for the assignment of the special public procurement had pointed out that part of the information in the bid was confidential. A court decision shall be delivered within 30 days.

On July 2, 2007, a Five-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) upheld a previous court decision which had repealed the refusal of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to provide information about the March 1, 2006 incident in the Nuclear Power Plant “Kozlodui.” The Bulgarian public learned about the incident from publications in German newspapers. According to the then Minister of Economics and Energy, Mr. Rumen Ovcharov, the incident was of a first degree and its announcement was not obligatory. An ad hoc commission, however, found that the incident was of a second degree and its announcement had been obligatory. In May 2006, the National Movement Ekoglasnost requested access to information about the measures taken with regard to the incident. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency provided the reports regarding the incident, but refused the annexes on the ground that the third party dissented the provision of information, the nuclear power plant being the third part. In February 2007, a Three-member panel of the SAC repealed the refusal, emphasizing that the dissent of the third party was not by itself a ground for refusal. The rights and interests of the third party should be indeed harmed or threatened, which was not the situation in the current case. The representative of the Nuclear Power Plan presented parts of a contract with a Russian company for design, development and putting into exploitation a control rods system, which stopped functioning on March 1, 2006. According to the contract, everything related to its implementation, was confidential.
With its decision, the Five-member panel repealed the arguments of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency and the Power Plant and upheld that the request for the consent of the third party did not give grounds for the refusal of information, which was public by nature. The court proceedings were supported by AIP.

In a final decision, as of June 28 2007, a Three-member panel of the SAC upheld the right of the journalist from bTV, Genka Shikerova, to obtain access to requested documents. The journalist started court proceedings against the refusal of the Mayor of the Municipality of Nesebar to provide access to orders about transference of property rights and granting of construction rights to people in need. Journalistic investigation revealed that state officials and people from the judicial power in the region were among “the indigent.” The reason for the submission of the request by the journalist was her interest in the particular grounds on which those people were defined as having housing needs. The Mayor did not respond within the legally prescribed time frames. However, in a belated decision, he motivated a refusal with the protection of third parties’ personal data. In November 2006, the Regional Court of Burgas repealed the refusal as illegal. A three-member panel of the SAC upheld the decision of the first instance, rejecting the argument of the appellant – the Municipality of Nesebar – that the journalist had requested the same information twice. The judges stated that if the institution had not provided information at a request the first time it was submitted, the institution did not have the right to claim that it had responded to the same request within the last six months. AIP provided legal help during the litigation. At the 2006 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony, Genka Shikerova was given the “Golden Key” Award in the category of a journalist who had most actively used the Access to Public Information Act.

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.

June 7, 2007: Bulgarian National Assembly passed the amendments to the Access to Public Information Act, which have been broadly discussed within the last three months. Access to Information Programme (AIP) has opposed the amendments since they were introduced in February 2007 due to their apparent contradiction to fundamental FOI standards. More...

On May 28, 2007, Access to Information Programme (AIP) presented its Annual Report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2006 at a pres conference held in the Bulgarian News Agency. AIP has been preparing the Report since the adoption of the Access to Public Information Act in 2000. The Report contains detailed analysis of changes in FOI legislation and practices; characteristics of the cases that Access to Information Programme received for legal help; results from a monitoring on the active provision of information by the institutions on their web sites; and an overview of the most interesting developments in the FOI court practices in 2006.

May 21, 2007: 68 Sign Protest Letter Against Bulgarian FOI Amendments
A letter calling on members of the Bulgarian National Assembly not to pass proposed amendments which would substantially weaken the national system for access to information was endorsed by 68 organisations and individuals from around the world. The letter, drafted by ARTICLE 19, was sent to Bulgarian legislators earlier today. Read the full text of the letter (Acrobat Reader 90Kb Download PDF) and the press release of AIP from May 16, 2007.

On 27nd April 2007 in Veliko Turnovo Access to Information Program held a one-day discussion on active provision of information, particularly publication of information on institutional web sites, with local and regional government officials from the Regions of Veliko Tarnovo, Pleven, Gabrovo and Lovech within the project Increasing Government Transparency and Accountability through Electronic Access to Information, financed by the UNDP Democratic Governance Trust Fund (DGTF).

Read the conclusions and recommendations made by the participants (Acrobat Reader 57Kb Download PDF)

On 26nd April 2007 in Veliko Turnovo, Access to Information Program organized a second round table Advocacy for Free Access to Information. Read the round table agenda.

On 23nd March 2007 in Montana Access to Information Program held a one-day discussion on active provision of information, particularly publication of information on institutional web sites, with local and regional government officials from the Regions of Montana, Vidin, and Vratsa within the project Increasing Government Transparency and Accountability through Electronic Access to Information, financed by the UNDP Democratic Governance Trust Fund (DGTF).

Read the conclusions and recommendations made by the participants (Acrobat Reader 59Kb Download PDF)

On 22nd March 2007 in Vidin Access to Information Program held a round table Advocacy for Free Access to Information with representatives of NGOs and media, as part the implementation of the project Strengthening NGOs in Their Search for Public Information, financed by PHARE Programme – 2004 Civil Society Development.

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On February 2, 2007 a three-member panel of the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court repealed a refusal of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA). The National Movement Ekoglasnost, had filed an information request for the report and its annexes on the fifth block incident in the Nuclear Power Plant Kozlodui on March 1, 2006. The reports were disclosed, but the annexes to were refused on the grounds that the third party - the nuclear power plant itself - did not consent on the disclosure of the information. Access to Information Programme provided legal assistance to the complainant. In its decision, the judges found that it unclear why NRA presumed that legitimate interests of the NPP Kozlodui were to be affected and asked for their consent. According to the justices, the annexes contained data about the investigation just like the reports. That is why, it could not be presumed that the annexes contained any legally protected information.The Supreme Administrative Court turned the file back to the Agency for reconsideration and obligated it to comply with the Environmental Protection Act, which requires that institutions should consider the public interest when deciding whether to provide access to environmental information.

Access to Information Programme (AIP) expresses its concern about the decision of the court and the economic pressure exercised by government officials on the citizens, who exercise their right of access to information. With its decision as of December 12, 2006 the Supreme Administrative Court in Bulgaria sentenced the Center for NGOs in the town of Razgrad to pay the expenses of 3000 BGN (1500 Euro) with regards to an access to information court case. More...

September 28, 2006: For the fourth successive year Access to Information Programme organized the Right to Know Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria
Around 150 people attended the 2006 Right to Know Awards Ceremony that AIP held in the National Press club at the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency. Posters were disseminated in Sofia and the countryside through AIP's coordinators network. Press releases were sent to national and regional media. The event was broadcast live on Internet. Cups, pins, pens, T-shirts, FOIANet leaflets, and the AIP's FOI Newsletter dedicated to the Right to Know Day were distributed among all the participants of the ceremony. Special guests of the Right to Know Day ceremony were Mr. Nikolay Vasilev, Minister of State Administration and Administrative Reform, Ms. Carmen Gonsalves, a counsellor at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bulgaria, and Mr. Neil Buhne, the UN Resident Coordinator in Bulgaria. More info

Access to Information Programme presented its Annual Report Access to Information in Bulgaria 2005 on May 12, 2006. Journalists, clients, friends, and partners of AIP attended the conference held at the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency. What were the changes in FOI legislation and practices in Bulgaria in 2005? What were the characteristics of the cases that Access to Information Programme received for legal help? Did state institutions and local government bodies fulfil their legal obligations to publish information on their Internet sites? What type of information did citizens seek? What were the most interesting developments in the FOI court practices in 2005? You will find answers to all of these questions, as well as detailed analysis of the related issues, in the annual report of AIP Access to Information in Bulgaria 2005.

In the beginning of 2006 Access to Information Programme published the third volume of Access to Information Litigation in Bulgaria. Selected cases. The book is divided into two parts - analytical text, written by Alexander Kashumov and Kiril Terziiski, and ten full court cases. The Bulgarian Access to Public Information Act has not established an independent institution to overview its implementation. In view of this situation, the court practice on the implementation of the APIA becomes of great significance... Available: (Acrobat PDF 2611Kb))

International Freedom of Information Litigation Conference—Lessons Learned was held on 25-26 November 2005 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The conference was organized by Access to Information Programme Foundation with the support of the Council of Europe. Participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Rumania, Moldova, Albania, Hungary, the Check Republic, Armenia, Georgia, the Netherlands, and the USA would visit Sofia to take part in the event.

The conference covered the following main topics: Freedom of Information Litigation –General Overview; FOI Litigation as Advocates Strategy; Challenging Freedom of Information Exemptions though Litigation; Effects of Freedom of Information Litigation. Read more.

Access to Information Program (AIP) has organized the celebration of the International Right to Know Day on 28 September for the third successive year. The ceremony was held in Mati hall in the National Palace of Culture. Positive and negative awards were given in eight categories. Read more.

Denial to disclose the controversial Trakia Highway concession appealed with the help of AIP
A journalist has started FOI court proceedings on Friday, 3 June 2005, with the help of Access to Information Programme The news was spread out by "Novinar" newspaper on Monday. The appeal is against a denial of the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works to disclose the concession contract of Trakia highway. The case about this contract became quite scandalous in Bulgaria, since there was no tender procedure. NGOs and politicians shared publicly serious suspicions of corruption. There was unofficial information that the Prime minister's family had some indirect participation in the company taking the concession and that the Bulgarian government undertook heavy responsibilities to pay reparations to the company in case there would not be enough highway traffic during the concession period of 35 years. The concerns were so serious, that recently Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung informed that the European Investment Bank is reconsidering its financing strategy for the construction of part of the motorway. The EIB vice president confirmed the position.

In the course of media search for more information, the daily newspaper "Dnevnik" consulted by AIP, discovered that the Government failed to practically organize the public register of concessions data. Later a journalist from "Novinar" newspaper filed a FOI request for the contract and related documents to the Minister who had signed the contract. After the Minister denied access on grounds of "office secret“, the disclosure of which threatens to"unduly harm the interests of the state and other interests," the journalist appealed the denial to the Court.

Sixteen European civil society organizations joined the Justice Initiative on April 12, 2005 in calling on the Council of Europe to adopt a new binding instrument entrenching the right to access information throughout Europe. The text of the letter is available here.

The final version of the report "Access to Information in Bulgaria 2004" is available. The purpose of this report is to summarize the developments in the freedom of information legislation and its implementation. The problems of the implementation of the right to information access outlined by the reporting team allow us to make certain conclusions on a practical and political level, in an attempt to improve the practices of providing access to information. This is the reason why this report starts with recommendations for the legislative and executive bodies of power in Bulgaria. This Report is published within the framework of the project "Implementation of Freedom of Information in Bulgaria", implemented by Access to Information Programme with cooperation of VVMZ East European Investment Services B.V. (NL) and financially supported by the Programme for Social Transformation in Central and East Europe (MATRA) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The full text of the report in English can be viewed here.

The annual “Big Brother” anti-awards presented in Bulgaria 13 April 2005

Access to Information Programme Foundation and Internet Society Bulgaria presented the annual “Big Brother” anti-awards for the violation of the right to privacy and the protection of personal data at an official ceremony in the “The Red House—Center for Culture and Debate” on 13 April 2005.

The award “Big Brother” was founded by Privacy International—a human rights group working for the protection of privacy. “Big Brother” awards are bestowed to these institutions, which directly or by establishing requirements and rules, seriously violate people’s privacy and the right to protection of personal data. The symbol of the anti-award is a military boot smashing a human head more...

Three strategic information cases, initiated by the Access to Information Programme were heard in the Bulgarian courts in January

On Monday, 24 January, the Supreme Administrative Court sent the case of the environment activist Peter Penchev to the Sofia City Court for actual hearing. Petar Penchev filed an information request to the Ministry of Environment and Water about the declarations of the independent experts, who had written the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the construction of the Nuclear Power Plant “Belene”. Access had been denied on the grounds of personal data protection. The Sofia City Court will judge whether the declarations, which aim to prove that experts have no personal interests in the implementation of the projects, programs, and investment offers, should be classified or the public interest prevails.

The longest pending lawsuit on access to information will come to an end in a month. Three-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court will make its judgement on the refusal of the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office to provide a copy of its 2001 report on the misuse of intercepts. The Office denied access as it stated that the report was classified as official secret. However, the two-years term of classification has expired and the Court is to rule in the public’s interest to know.

Have firms, close to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, participated in deals with Saddam Hussein, a case known as Iraqgate? The President’s refusal to provide the security services’ report on the issue will be questioned before the Sofia City Court on Thursday, 27 January. The hearing was appointed for the last autumn and cancelled because the the President had not been duly summoned. The CIA has published its report on Iraqgate on the Internet in October 2004.


On Tuesday, 6 January 2005, the Bulgarian government adopted draft amendments of the Protection of Classified Information Act, seeking for easier destruction of classified documents (without any exposure in public eye before that) and shifting the decision-making power on that issue from the Commission under the Act to the authorities that hold the documents. In fact, the draft is not public yet. Access to Information Programme (AIP) is anxious about the lack of transparency of the draft and of a preliminary public discussion. We are worried that the already known changes are clearly bad. There is a concern that the uncontrolled discretion given to public authorities to decide on the destruction of their documents, without publishing them before that, would make it possible to easily delete data about wrong-doings. Another problem, communicated in the debate after the changes were announced, was that the former state security services' files are also threatened by deletion. That is because the draft amendments do not distinguish between destruction of current and former documents. So, AIP already started severe criticism through media.

Access to Information Programme prepared the first version of a Report on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice on Environmental Matters. The report, which is currently under review by NGOS, officials and scientists, was prepared using the methodology of The Access Initiative of the World Resources Institute.The national team, working on the project in Bulgaria, comprised Alexander Kashumov, Darina Palova, Gergana Jouleva, Kiril Terzijski, and Nikolay Marekov from Access to Information Programme and Petar Radev and Stoyan Yotov from “Borrowed Nature” Association. Diana Bancheva (AIP) worked on the English version of the project resume, available here: Acrobat PDF (226Kb).
We would also like to thank the external experts, who took part in the development of the report:
- Alexander Assenov, Black Sea Center for Environmental Information and Education,
- Petar Penchev, president of the National Movement “Ekoglasnost” - Montana,
- Yurij Ivanov, president of Civil Association “Public Barometer” - Sliven, Water facilities in Sliven.

The Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) celebrates the international Right to Know Day. On a press conference on Sep. 28 AIP presented awards to citizens, media and NGOs, who have actively exercised their rights to freedom of information. Two awards - a positive and a negative one - will be given to institutions. More information on the way FOIAnet members celebrated on September 28 can be found here.

On Sep. 28, 2004 the Justice Initiative has released the executive summary of its 2003 Pilot FOI Monitoring Report. The full report will be released shortly. The 2004 16-country monitoring is already well advanced and results will be released much more quickly than with this pilot. The study was carried out in partnership with FOI Advocates network members: Access to Information Program (AIP), Bulgaria, Freedom of Information Center, Armenia, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS, Press and Society Institute), Peru, Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), South Africa, Pro Media, Macedonia. And all involved in the 2003 and 2004 monitoring know that nothing could have been done without our consultant Tom Carson who has been incredibly dedicated to this project and developing this excellent tool for monitoring access to information. This report shows that although progress is made, still much work has to be done in promoting implementation of FOI laws. Read the executive summary: Acrobat PDF (211Kb).

Government transparency under scrutiny in South-East Europe. How Southeast European countries plagued by corruption and low public trust in government can benefit from greater transparency was the subject of discussion in Budva, Montenegro, on September 9-10, at a seminar featuring government officials and civil society groups from across the region. More...

AIP has published the report "Access to Information in Bulgaria 2003". The purpose of this report is to summarize the developments in the freedom of information legislation and its implementation. The problems of the implementation of the right to information access outlined by the reporting team allow us to make certain conclusions on a practical and political level, in an attempt to improve the practices of providing access to information. This is the reason why this report starts with recommendations for the legislative and executive bodies of power in Bulgaria. This Report is published within the framework of the project "Implementation of Freedom of Information in Bulgaria", implemented by Access to Information Programme with cooperation of VVMZ East European Investment Services B.V. (NL) and financially supported by the Programme for Social Transformation in Central and East Europe (MATRA) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The full text of the report in English can be viewed here Acrobat PDF (308Kb) .

On May 14-15 in Sofia AIP organized a Regional Conference "Advocacy for Freedom of Information - Independent Monitoring". A number of organizations focusing on monitoring and advocacy for FOI implementation presented their experience in the area. The conference was financially supported by the Council of Europe/Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. More...

Following an information request and a court appeal by a Hristo Hristov, a Bulgarian journalist, the five-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) obliged the Minister of Interior (MI) to provide access to archival documents. While studying the facts surrounding the assassination of the Bulgarian journalist Georgi Markov in London in the 1970s, Mr. Hristov requested access to MI archival documents containing security services files about the Bulgarian units of BBC, Free Europe and Deusche Welle. Initially the Minister did not respond to the information request, but than claimed that such documents were not kept in the archive of the Ministry of Interior. The appeal against the refusal was filed with the assistance of AIP but was rejected by the three-member panel of SAC. A week ago (on May 05) the five-member panel of Supreme Administrative Court reversed the first-instance decision and obliged the respondent to provide access to the requested information. The court believed that the presented evidence on the case proved the existence of the requested information in the MI archives and the journalist had already read some of the related documents of the former security services. Even if part of the documents had not been available, under the procedures of the Access to Public Information Act the Ministry of Interior had to indicate where they could be found. The peremptory judgment of the second-instance court is notable because instead of returning the file to the respondent for reconsideration, it decided the case in substance and obliged the Minister to provide full access to the requested information. Description of the case can be found here.

The five-member panel of the Supreme administrative court of Bulgaria confirmed the decision of the three-member panel on administrative case ¹ 3080/2003. The decision of the three-member panel had reversed the refusal of the Minister of Finance to disclose a copy of the contract between the Ministry and Crown Agents to Kiril Terziiski. The court file has been referred back to the Minister of Finance, who is now obliged to reconcider the information request. The court decision is final and is not subject to further appeal. More...

Bulgarian Access to Information Litigation 2003. We have sumamrized the most important court cases for 2003 in which Access to Information Programme has provided legal assistance, including representation in court.

Available: PDF (78Kb) , HTML

AIP published a handbook "How to Get Access to Environmental Information" with the support by a grant from the Regional Environmental Center of Central and Eastern Europe and with the support of te Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands within the Regional Environment Reconstruction Programme for South Eastern Europe (REReP). Available: Acrobat Reader PDF (253kb) Download PDF

Proposed changes in the Penal Code /Oct. 10, 2003/

The Council of Ministers introduced to Parliament amendments to the 1968 Penal Code of Bulgaria dealing with the unauthorised disclosure of State secrets

Amendment text: Acrobat PDF 16Êb

Comments of Article 19, the Global Campaign for Free expression

Available: Acrobat PDF 58Êb

Letter of Open Society Justice Initiative to the Bulgarian lawmakers

Available: Acrobat PDF 88Êb

Article of prof. Alasdair Roberts, published in Dnevnik newspaper on Oct. 15 2003

Available: HTML 10Êb

Read here The Right to Know is Gaining around the World - an article by Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington D.C., and managing editor of www.freedominfo.org, a web network of international access advocates in International Herald Tribune.

On 28 September 2002 Freedom of Information organizations from various countries around the globe meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, created a network of Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIA Network) and agreed to collaborate in promotion of the individual right of access to information and open, transparent governance. The group of FOI Advocates also proposed that 28 September be nominated as international "Right to Know Day" in order to symbolize the global movement for promotion of the right to information. The aim of having a Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of the right to information. It is a day on which freedom of information activists from around the world can use further to promote this fundamental human right and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government. On a press conference on Sep. 28 AIP will present awards to citizens, media and NGOs, who have actively exercised their rights to freedom of information. Two awards - a positive and a negative one - will be given to institutions. More information on the nominations and the ceremony can be found here (in Bulgarian).

Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria demands the contract with Crown Agents. A three-member panel of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) in a hearing from June 03 decided to request officially the contract between the Bulgarian
government and the British consultancy company Crown Agent, hired to conduct reforms in the Bulgarian customs system. SAC requested the contract in relation to an appeal filed in October 2002 against a decision of the Minister of Finance to refuse access to the full text of the contract, involving about 14,500,000 USD. The information request had been filed by Kiril
Terziiski, an attorney-at-law at AIP.The Supreme Administrative Court will review the contract in a private hearing, in
order to decide whether the refusal of the Minister of Finance was lawful.

Amendments to the Access to Public Information Act were passed at first hearing in Parliament on Thursday, May 8, 2003. Access to Information Programme actively participated in the process of promoting the adoption of the Amending Act. AIP has held several discussions on the draft with the MPs, who introduced it into Parliament. AIP members have participated and expressed their opinions on all discussions of the three responsible Parliamentary Committees (Civil Society Affairs Committee, Human Rights and Religious Affairs Committee, and Legal Affairs Committee). The conformity of the Amending Act to the recently adopted Recommendation (2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was discussed on a round table in May, 2002. The round table was organized by AIP with the help of the Media Division of the Council of Europe and financial support of the Government of Luxemburg for journalists, MPs, international experts, and jurists.

Here are the most important changes that the Amending Act will make if adopted:
1 . A more precise definition of the term "public information". Public information will be any information kept, received or created by the obliged institutions, which does not constitute state secret or other secret set down in law.
2. Further specification of the range of institutions, obliged to provide access to public information under the Act. The Amending Act would explicitly oblige territorial branches of the executive power, besides the central institutions. The reason for this amendment is the developed practice of the territorial branches to forward information requests to the central institutions, instead of examining them. Heads of the territorial departments have repeatedly argued, they are not obliged under the Act, but only central institutions are.
3. Media will no longer be obliged to provide access to information under the new Act.
4. Article 14, para. 2 item 3 of the current act will be amended to include the so called "balance of interests" principle. According to this international standard, the right to information access cannot be denied formally (i.e. solely on the basis of some legal provision). Instead, the Act provides an opportunity for the officials to disclose certain categories of information, when the public interest prevails over the interest that a certain prevention form access would protect.
5. The amending act provides for a limitation of the period, in which preparatory documents under art. 13 para. 2 item 1 of APIA can be exempt from access, only to the moment of publishing the final act. This proposed change is of great importance, because one of the main purposes of APIA is to create opportunities for public participation in the decision-making process and for informed criticism of the decisions taken.
6. The new Act make an amendment in article 41 of APIA, which will allow information access to be provided to the requestors on the basis of a court decision only. Until now, following a favorable court decision, requestors had to renew the application procedure (i.e., to file a new, separate request) in order to actually receive information access.
7. Introduction of an administrative procedure for appealing both decisions to disclose and refusals to grant information. Until now appeals against refusals to grant information access could only be filed in court.
8. The fine in cases when officials refuse to issue a decision on an information request, or to abide to a court decision are nearly doubled in the Amending Act.
9. Introduction of a six-month period form the adoption of The Amending Act, in which all regional and central institutions have to appoint a specific official responsible for APIA issues. At the same time (and in the same six-month term) institutions have to appoint places or reading rooms, where created or received documents will be kept.

Ninety MPs voted for the adoption of the Act and two were against from a total of 102 voters. Read the text of the amendments, the reasons of the presenters, and the opinion of the AIP team here.

With the assistance of AIP Ivaylo Ganchev has won administrative court case 8518/2002 in front of the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria. The citizen appealed a refusal of the Minister of Science and Education (MSE) to present documents in relation to renting parts of the lobby of the Ministry for commercial purposes. Violating the procedures of the State Property Act and the Regulation on its Implementation, the Minister had given parts of the lobby to a private company, which had placed advertising banners. Read more...

The Year of the Rational Ignorance Access to Information Programme presents the report of the sociological survey Fulfillment of the Obligations under APIA by the bodies of the Executive power 2002. The report is published in the frame of the project "Practical Access to Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe" implemented with the leading role of Article 19 with the financial support of the European Initiatve for Democracy and Human Rights. Read the full text here Acrobat PDF (208Kb) .

Access to Information Programme has published its book Access to Information Litigation in Bulgaria. Selected Cases. We have chosen the most important court appeals in the field of access to information in Bulgaria. The introduction to the book was written by Alexander kashumov and edited by Gergana Jouleva. Read the full text here Acrobat PDF (732Kb) .

"Implementation of the Freedom of Information Laws. Litigation" was the topic of a workshop organized by AIP in the frame of the project "Freedom of Information Litigation", financially supported by Open Society Institute - Budapest. Participants were lawyers from countries, where the right to access is regulated by law (Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, USA, Mexico etc.) as well as countries where Access to Information Laws are about to be adopted (Armenia, Macedonia, Russia, Croatia, Montenegro, etc.). The participants presented the FOI regulations in their countries, the practices on access to information, and litigation. See the agenda of the workshop here Acrobat PDF (32Kb) .

The essay "The Access to Information Programme: Fighting for Transparency during the Democratic Transition" by Gergana Jouleva, executive director of AIP has been published on the online network of freedom of information advocates www.freedominfo.org. This site is a one-stop portal that describes best practices, consolidates lessons learned, explains campaign strategies and tactics, and links the efforts of freedom of information advocates around the world. It contains crucial information on freedom of information laws and how they were drafted and implemented, including how various provisions have worked in practice. Gergana Jouleva is a member of the editorial board of www.freedominfo.org.

Alexander Kashumov, an AIP lawyer, together with the Bulgarian Media Coalition and the Bulgarian Helsenkee Committee presented a statement on the defamation case against Katia Kassabova of Compass newspaper by Article19 the Global Campaign for Free Expression. Read the statement here.

A round table "Access to Public Information Act and the Recommendations of the Council of Europe" was held on May 21 in Radisson hotel in Sofia. AIP organized the forum with the financial support of the Government of Luxemburg. Journalists, MPs, foreign experts, and jurists discussed the proposed Ammendments of APIA and Recommendation R(2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on access to official documents.

Access to Information Programme has published in English its report "The Current Situation of the Access to Public Information in Bulgaria 2001". The report is available here. (Acrobat Reader (249Kb) Download PDF.

On May 10, 2002 Access to Information Programme Foundation organized a seminar "The condition of the access to information in Bulgaria" Adacta Hall of Rila Hotel. AIP presented the Persobal Data protection Act, The protection of Classified Information Act, Recommendation R(2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on access to official documents, and the draft amendments in APIA. During the second part of the seminar the team of AIP presented the Register of Administrative Structures and Acts of Executive Power Bodies. Concrete cases and court appeals were also discussed.

Access to Information Programme organized a training workshop "Application of Access to Public Information Act (APIA)" on 19 April 2002 starting at 09:30h in hotel "Zitomir", Montana. The participants in the seminar were representatives from the local administration and territorial branches of the executive power from the regions Vidin, Vraca and Montana.

Access to Information Programme Foundation organized a training workshop "Application of Access to Public Information Act (APIA)" on March 29, 2002 in Grand Hotel "Veliko Tarnovo", Veliko Tarnovo. You can find detailed information here.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a recommendation on access to official documents on February 21, 2002. The text of the Recommendation and its Explanatory memorandum can be found here.

Acess to Information Programme together with American Bar Association-CEELI organizes a series of training workshops for the local administration and the regional branches of the central administration on the Fulfillment of the obligations under APIA. The first training was held in Plovdiv on March 15, 2002. On March 29, 2002 the team will be in Veliko Turnovo.

On January 11, 2002 in Adacta Hall in Rila Hotel AIP presented the survey "Fulfillment of the obligations under APIA by the Bodes of the Executive Power", accomplished by Access to Information Programme and Agency for socio-economic analysis. The report on this survey is published within the frame of the project Advocacy for the implementation of APIA and judicial review with the finical support of the Open Society Foundation - Sofia.

Access to Information Programme Foundation celebrated its fifth birthday with a press-conference and a workshop. On November 16 in Adacta hall of Rila hotel the team of AIP presented its comments on the Personal Data Protection Draft Act and the Draft Law on the Protection of Information, Classified as State or Official secret.

The Parliament of Bulgaria adopted the Personal Data Protection Act. The act provides for the usage of such information. The team of Access to Information Programme has prepared comments on the draft Act, which can be seen here.

Amending Act to the Access to Public Information Act was introdiced in Parliament by group of members of Parliament: Borislav Tsekov, Valentin Tserovski, Nikolai Buchkov, Rupen Krikoryan, Emil Koshlukov, Husein Chaush on 27.11.2001. Read the text of the amendments, the reasons of the presenters, and the opinion of the AIP team here.


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