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 standards
For the sixth successive year Access to Information Programme (AIP) held the annual Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria.
More than 100 people attended the 2008 Right to Know Awards Ceremony that AIP held in the National Press Club at the Bulgarian News Agency on September 28 at noon. 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, pens, T-shirts, FOIANet leaflets 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. Vera Illes, Programme Manager at The Management & Media Academy/Free Voice.
The Awards Ceremony was broadcast live on the Internet on September 28.
The 2008 RKD Awards Committee had to select the winners from almost 60 nominations, received through AIP web site, through e-mail, from AIP coordinators, and from the members of the Awards Committee themselves.
Positive awards for achievements and negative awards for "mischievements" in the FOI area were given in seven categories – five positive and two negative. Interviews with the awardees can be found in the September issue of the AIP Newsletter (in Bulgarian) at: http://www.aip-bg.org/bulletin_bg.htm.
1. Citizen, who has most actively used the APIA
A "Golden Key" award was given to Mr. Georgi Shumakov for his persistent submission of requests for information related to variety of regulatory regimes and the process of their adoption and implementation. Mr. Shumakov requested information from the Financial Supervision Commission regarding the grounds on which insurance companies estimate the “Vehicle Casco” insurance costs. He also inquired the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works about the standards and requirements on coercion of snow and earthquakes charges on different type of constructions, etc.
The jury selected Mr. Shumakov as the winner in the category for his innovative approach in exercising his right to information. He requested and required to receive granted information from institutions via electronic mail. The results from his systematized search of information successfully demonstrate the benefits of access to information for the business.
Honorary Diplomas in the same category were given to:
Mr. Ivan Petrov – for filing requests for information to the Municipality of Sofia, the Ministry of Interior, General headquarters of Bulgarian army, district municipalities of Sofia, Sofia City Court and Prosecutor’s office. He has started legal proceedings against the refusal of the Sofia District Prosecutor’s Office to provide him information on the amount and types of official stamps used by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Mr. Nickolay Tsvetkov – for outstanding efforts in search of information of public significance that would increase the transparency of administrative decisions at the Municipality of Varna.
2. Non-governmental organization, which has most actively exersized its access to information right
was acknowledged with the "Golden Key" for their persistent search of documents necessary for conducting various research works, analyses and recommendations by using the procedures of the Access to Public Information Act. The IME received the 2008 “Golden Key” award for also publishing all the documents received under the procedures of the APIA on its web-page.
An Honorary Diploma was bestowed to the Association of Parks in Bulgaria for active use of the APIA in 2007 and 2008 in search for information regarding the environment and for starting access to information litigation.
3. Best journalist story/campaign/publication related to the access to information right
The “Golden Key”award for most active use of the APIA in journalistic investigations and publications was given to Mr. Rosen Bosev, from „Capital” weekly. The journalist is known for frequent and rigorous utilization of APIA in his journalistic investigations and publications in the media. Mr. Bosev initiated several court cases with the support of AIP against the Government Information Services and against the Minister of Education and Science.Honorary diplomas were given to:
Mr. Tsvetan Todorov, „Naroden Glas” newspaper in Lovech – for the series of publications in 2007-2008 covering the two court cases for access to information initiated by him against the Mayor of Lovech and the Municipal Council of Lovech.
Mr. Ivan Bedrov, RE:TV – for putting out the question about the transparency of the KPMG report on conflicts of interests among personnel of National Road Infrastructure Fund.
4. Institution, which has most efficiently organized the provision of public information
The ”Golden Key”award was presented by the Minister of State Administration and Administrative Reform, Mr. Nikolay Vasilev, to the East-Aegean Sea River Basin Directorate, Plovdiv. The institution was recognized for the high quality of organization in the process of provision of access to public information. The Basin Directorate - Plovdiv provides access to documents in accordance with the APIA in a precise, adequate and timely manner. They were also singled out for active disclosure of information by publication in their Internet site. The Basin Directorate – Plovdiv has not issued any decision for refusal of access to information since now.
5. Best web-site of an institution with regard to the Access to Public Information Act
In 2008 the Regional Governor’s Administration of Veliko Tirnovo was recognized as having the best web site with regard to access to information. The Regional Governor’s Administration was given the “Golden Key” Awards for publishing wide range of significant public information on the web-site. Users can find detailed instructions on published documents most frequently asked by citizens– legal acts, certificates, copies etc. Besides, there is a special section on the web-page titled „Access to Information”, which contains sample request according to APIA.
An Honorary diploma for a FOI friendly web site was given to the Municipality of Sofia, for making available online general and detailed plans of Sofia city and City municipality. The web-site contains all copies of issued permissions for construction in the territory of Sofia city.
At the 2008 Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony, negative awards were given to these institutions, which did not fulfil their obligations under the APIA and violate people's right to know.
The “Golden Padlock” award went to the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (MRDPW) as an institution, which does not observe its obligations under the APIA and violates citizens’ rights under the APIA. MRDPW was “recognized” with the 2008 anti award for its frequent silent refusals to provide information to citizens, and also for its explicit refusals to provide documents related to the concessional assessments on the contract for the construction of highway “Trakia;” for its refusal to provide preparatory documents for the implementation of a regulation on the construction works in potential earthquake areas; and for generally preventing access to information about signed contracts and assigned public procurements, etc.
In 2008, the Right to Know Day jury decided to give two Dishonorary Diplomas to institutions which do not fulfill their obligations under the APIA. The Government Information Services (GIS) were dishonored for more than one year of deliberate extension and setting of obstacles for the case of access to information initiated by the journalist from “Capital” newspaper Rosen Bosev. The State Fund Agriculture for being persistently closed and nontransparent institution. In most cases, requestors are refused access to information on the ground that officials have oral prohibition to provide the data.
The "Tied Key" award for the most absurd administrative FOI decision for the past year went to the State Forests Agency for a ridiculous response to AIP’s request for information. AIP wanted to know who is the responsible person within the State Agency for providing public information and where citizens may obtain the documents they need. The reply sent by the agency stated that requested information can be found in an order issued by the director of the institution, the order being stuck on the door on the Registras’s Office at the Agency.
The celebration of the 2008 Right to Know Day in Bulgaria is realized within the implementation of the project Increasing Government Transparency and Accountability through Electronic Access to Information, financed by the UNDP Democratic Governance Trust Fund. Part of the campaign is supported through 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 by the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria. Soft and Publishing CIELA and Damianitza JSCkindly contributed to the celebration of the Right to Know Day again.