The Executive Editor of the portal was a guest to the 2013 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria

Diana Bancheva, AIP
2013 Right to Know Day
Toby McIntosh

Welcome to the 11the Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria. Did you enjoy the ceremony?


Thanks, Diana. It's wonderful to be here. I have visited a friend here and the timing was fortuitous that you are having this celebration. I definitely wanted to see this. It is the first time I've seen a Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony at any place besides the US. This is the most specific awards ceremony, and the one with more awards and more stories of any place in the world.  So, it was really special to see this, to hear the energy and excitement of the stories, to hear people be so grateful to get awards like these. So, it must be a testament to the work of the AIP - that you can generate this kind of enthusiasm and that these are clearly respected awards. Nobody wants to get an award if it's not one that is really meaningful. And these clearly are meaningful. More than that, you establish credibility with this awards ceremony. The nominees are clearly well thought out. They have done amazing things. Winners, I am sure, are very deserving.


The competition for the awards is increasing.


If there was a contest that nobody wanted to win, there wouldn't be any fun. This was very impressive. I'm hoping that more countries will adopt this kind of a model. You have said how the ceremony that the AIP organizes has inspired other countries to do the same kind of thing. I don't see why it should not happen in more countries. We have 95 countries with Freedom of Information (FOI) laws now, and only maybe 6 to 10 places where serious awards like these are given. I am hoping to write about that for and maybe use Bulgaria as an example to help spread, as you are already, the idea of doing awards ceremonies.


AIP has chosen the awards ceremony as the best format to celebrate the RKD in Bulgaria, but there are other forms as well used by the FOI advocates around the world.


My impression is that a lot of FOI ceremonies seem to be focused on seminars for experts and maybe for knowledgeable NGOs about the law. That is a good model. Then, there are some that are more of the celebration model. There are country organizations which create songs and plays, and ad campaigns. You do some of that here as well. That is valuable. I have an idea that maybe we should create an online market of the CDs, and T-shirts, and hats, and other things that people use in their FOI campaigns around the world, so that people can show solidarity with other people around the world because the struggle is going on in so many places. What I mean is that you are so fortunate to have an established access to information law in Bulgaria even if it might need positive amendments. But it is surprising that in countries like the Philippines there still is not a FOI law. There are many countries that have weak laws, as you know from looking at the international ratings. It is kind of shocking that it's been around for many years and it is growing exponentially in the last few decades, but there are still many other countries that should be passing laws.


How is the Right to Know Day celebrated in the US?


Right to Know Day is less recognized in the US. We celebrate our President James Madison as a great exponent of openness in Government. On James Madison's birthday in the spring, we have conferences, the Sunshine Week, and so there are programs and celebrations around that and often times, organizations would come up with examples of good FOI work, publicity events, programs around it.


FOI advocates in Bulgaria celebrate the Right to Know Day as a professional holiday. What is your wish for us today?


I love it that you call it a professional holiday. I think everybody that uses FOIA has a responsibility to try to make the FOI laws better. Even though we get all the advantage of using them, in most countries, particularly journalists, need to spend more time to write about the weaknesses of the FOI laws and what can be changed to make government more open. There are always new horizons.



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