The right of access to information is an important human right, necessary
for the enjoyment of other human rights.
The right to information is essential for transparent and accountable
government. The right of access to information makes possible the public
involvement in formulating social policies and in the decision-making
processes of governance
The right to information can only be effectively exercised and implemented
on the basis of laws, regulating this right in accordance with international
28 September - Award ceremony 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.
Positive awards for achievements and negative awards for
"mischievements" in the FOI area were given in seven categories.
A "Golden Key" award was given to
a citizen, who had submitted 36 requests to authorities of
all levels of power. Mr. William Popov
(pictured on the right) uses the Access to Public Information Act
(APIA) to obtain information from the President, to the Prime Minister,
to different ministers and mayors. He uses this strategy to test
the level of democratization of Bulgarian institutions since he
believes that granting access to information is the strongest indicator
for that. Mr. Popov has also represented successfully himself in
FOI court cases.
Honorary Diplomas were given to:
- Mr. Plamen Simeonov for using the APIA in his search for information
from the Chief Prosecutorís Office;
- Mr. Anton Gerdjikov for using the APIA in his search for information
from the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and to
- Ms. Desislava Rayanova for her persistent search for information
about people with multiple sclerosis.
The "Golden Key" for the best news
story based on the use of the APIA went to the journalist
Genka Shikerova (left) from the national
"bTV." Her investigation revealed violations at the distribution
of municipal estate property at the seacoast town of Nesebar. The
mayor had given construction permits under a housing program for
indigent people to individuals who did not meet the requirements.
With the assistance of AIP, Genka Shikerova submitted a complaint
to the Bourgas Regional Court against the refusal of the mayor to
provide access to the mayor's orders concerning the municipal land
Honorary Diplomas were given to:
- Katrin Binbashieva from "TV7" for her investigation
about illegal construction around the Iskar Dam - the main drinking-water
source of Sofia; and to
- Alexenia Dimitrova from "24 Hours" daily for her efficient
use of American and Bulgarian FOI laws for a number of media publications,
as well as the book "The War of the Spies."
The Environmental Association "For the
Earth", a member of the CEE Bankwatch Network, was presented
with the "Golden Key" for its persistent and fruitful
searches of information using the APIA. For the Earth representative
Ivaylo Hlebarov received the award.
"For the Earth" demanded environmental information about
national construction projects, financed by the ISPA program, the
World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development. They started court proceedings with
the help of AIP in cases of refusals and ran parallel public campaigns.
"Center for NGOs-Razgrad"
and Environmental Association "Green Balkans"
- Plovdiv were the two NGOs bestowed with Honorary Diplomas
for their fruitful use of the APIA.
The fourth positive award was presented by
Nikolay Vassilvev, Minister of State Administration and Administrative
Reform to the institution that has best organized its activities
to supply information to the public. The 2006
"Golden Key" in that category went to the Public
Financial Inspection Agency (PFIA), the successor of the
Public Internal Financial Control Agency (PIFCA). PIFCA walked all
the way from a dark and nontransparent institution to the winner
of the Right to Know award by adopting internal rules for access
to information provision and changing its practices towards greater
transparency and respect of the public right to know.
Recipients of Honorary Diplomas in the category were:
- Basin Directorate in Plovdiv,
- Regional Governor of Veliko Tarnovo, and
- Municipality of Tundja.
Minister Nikolay Vassilev presents the Golden
key award to PFIA
The last positive Right to Know Day award was
given for the most FOI-friendly web site. The 2006 receiver
of the "Golden Key" in that category was the small Municipality
of Straldja, which managed to develop and maintain its own website,
improving their communication with the local population and consequently
the work of the municipality administration. Mitko Andonov, the
mayor of Straldja (left) acepted the award.
Honorary Diplomas for FOI friendly web sites were given to:
- Basin Directorate of Blagoevgrad http://www.wabd.bg/
- Municipality of Slivenhttp://www.sliven.bg/
As in the three preceding ceremonies, negative awards were
given to these institutions, which did not fulfil their obligations under
the APIA and violate people's right to know.
The 2006 "Golden Padlock" went to
the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests for refusing information about
the process of exchange of state estate property with attractive seacoast
lands, which were sold at low costs to private individuals. The Ministry
also refused to provide the documents related to the restitution of former
Prime Minister's lands in the Rila Mountain, as well as blueprints of
estates which, according to the requestors, were illegally given to the
"Bobov dol" Mines.
This year the Right to Know Award Committee decided to present Dishonorary
Diplomas to two other institutions, which violated the right to
know. The National Health Insurance Fund was "dishonored" for
being the most often sued institution and for nonconformity with court
decisions against refusals of information. NHIF was awarded with the "Golden
Padlock" once (in 2004) but it not only failed to improve its practices
but worsened them instead. As a result of not announcing decisions of
the NHIF Board, patients under The other "dishonored" institution
was the mayor of the town of Nesebar for not providing documents, which
might have revealed misappropriation with municipal estates.different
programs of free treatment suffered financial damages.
The "Tied Key" for the most absurd
and/or funniest administrative FOI decision went to the Ministry of Justice
for their inability to develop and apply internal rules for the provision
of information about funding NGOs with money from the state budget.
The organization and celebration of the 2006 Right to Know Day in
Bulgaria was possible thanks to the financial support of the US Department
of State, UNDP for Bulgaria, and MATRA Programme of the Netherlands Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. "Soft and Publishing CIELA," "Zagorka
JSC", and "Damianitza JSC" kindly contributed to the celebration
of the Right to Know Day.