Access to Information Programme held the 11th Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony on 28 September 2013. A hundred FOI activists from Sofia and the country gathered at the National Pressclub of the Bulgarian News Agency. A special guest to the ceremony was Mr. Toby McIntosh, executive editor of Freedominfo.org.
The 2013 Right to Know Day Awards Jury selected the winners in six categories out of 39 nominations received through the special web site www.RightToKnowDay.net, AIP e-mail or sent by AIP coordinators in the country.
Interviews with all awardees will be published in the September issue of AIP monthly newsletter electronically disseminated to 2,300 subscribers.
The Golden Key award for a citizen who has most actively exercised their right of information was given to Mr. Georgi Serbezov from the town of Plovdiv. He has not only actively used the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) to obtain information of public interest, but has launched the web portal http://zdoi.gkzj.org/ that accumulates the Supreme Administrative Court decisions and rulings under the APIA, makes them easy for search and visible to Google. Mr. Serbezov launched the portal free of charge to assist citizens, NGOs, and journalists in their active exercise of the right of access to information when they seek defense of that right in court.
Mr. Georgi Serbezov received a DVD player as a present from Technopolis Bulgaria.
Two citizens were recognized with honorary diplomas:
Mr. Ivan Sapundzhiev from the town of Kuystendil, whose persistency in searching and obtaining information from the Mayor of Kuystendil resulted in the fining of the mayor by the court for not respecting a court decision to provide access to public information. The fine is of 500 BGN (apr. 250 Euro) per each week of delay.
Mr. Dancho Zaverdzhiev from the town of Lovech who has been actively using the APIA to obtain information about EU funded projects implemented by the municipality and other municipal budget spendings. By using the APIA, Mr. Zaverdzhiev has achieved the repealing of a 2012 decision of the Municipal Council of Lovech for determining unacceptable waste management tax for all residents of the Municipality of Lovech.
In 2013, the Jury decided to recognize the National Movement “Ekoglasnost” with the Golden Key award as the NGO which most actively exercised the right to information. The NM “Ekoglasnost” has purposefully, consistently and persistently used the APIA to cast light on topics related to the nuclear power energy sector. The NM “Ekoglasnost” has used the APIA as a tool for collecting not only information for public campaigns, but also for evidence in the court to prove violation of the law which affects the fundamental human right to healthy environment.
Two other NGOs were recognized with honorary diplomas:
The Center for NGOs in Razgrad was recognized for the consistent and persistent use of the APIA in its work in public interest. For several years, the organization has run a campaign, including litigation, for greater publicity of the conflict of interest declarations of civil servants and magistrates. In 2013, the Center for NGOs in Razgrad initiated a campaign for the active disclosure of the conflict of interests declarations of representatives of the judiciary which is about to end with success.
The Bulgarian Institute for Legal Initiatives (BILI) for their consistent use of the APIA procedures in cases of high public interest. The BILI systematically campaigns for the increase of transparency in the judicial system. During the past year, with the help of AIP, the BILI started a court case against the refusal of the Minister of Interior to provide information about a gift-gun given to the Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov during his term of a Regional Prosecutor of Plovdiv. The BILI joined the campaign of the Center for NGOs in Razgrad and AIP for disclosure of the conflict of interests declarations of the magistrates.
The Golden Key Award for the most efficient use of the Access to Public Information Act by a journalist was presented to Ms. Doroteya Dachkova from the Sega Daily. She has actively used the APIA for a number of publications dealing with issues of great public interest. With the help of the APIA, she has obtained information about the process of pardoning carried out by the former President and has published extensively on the topic. Ms. Dachkova was also leading in the investigation of the sources of endowments to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in 2011. Her use of the APIA to obtain information in that case and extensive media campaign resulted in ceasing the practices of private persons and companies making endowments to the MoI and in launching an online register of the donors. In 2013, Ms. Dachkova uses the APIA to obtain information about the number of delayed cases in the Sofia City Court, the names of the judges hearing the cases and the grounds for the delay. With the help of AIP, Ms. Dachkova challenged the refusal of the Chairperson of the court and published in the press.
In 2013 again, the Cantek company kindly provided a present for the winner in the category. Ms. Doroteya Dachkova received an All-in-one printer PIXMA MG3150.
Honorary diplomas were given to:
Mr. Konstantin Karadzhov from the bTV for the media campaign and for the series of reportages and broadcasts that he has prepared and taken part in, related to the accountability of the work and the expenses made by the government Avio Squad 28. AIP assisted litigation started by Mr. Karadzhov revealed that there was no established procedure for record management of government requests for using the Avio Squad 28. The topic was widely covered by other media as well. The extensive media campaign was one of the reasons for the establishment of an Ad-hoc Parliamentary Committee to check up all data, facts and circumstances concerning the use of the government Avio Squad 28 and the aircrafts of the Ministry of Defense for the period of the previous government (August 2009 – March 2013). Also, a register of the requests for using the government Avio Squad was established with an Order by the Chief Secretary of the Council of Ministers.
Mr. Pavlin Ivanov from the web portal Lovech Today for his active journalistic position on a range of topics of public interest related to the work of the local authorities in Lovech – the municipality, the municipal companies and the Municipal Council. With the help of the APIA, Mr. Pavlin Ivanov has investigated the amount of the remunerations received by municipal officials for their work under EU funded projects and the way by which municipal companies spend their budgets. The information he has obtained under the APIA is revealed to the public by publications in the portal www.lovechtoday.eu. In 2013, with the help of AIP, Mr. Ivanov initiated two court cases against refusals of access to information.
The Technical Control Inspection at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was recognized as the winner of the 2012 Golden Key Award in the category for an institution which has most efficiently organized the provision of public information. The Inspection has progressed with almost 200 places forward in the 2013 Active Transparency Rating launched by AIP in March 2013. The institution has achieved high level of transparency and accountability with their updated web site. The institution discloses contracts on its web site and sets an example of uploading documents which have been requested more than once – an evidence for the analytical approach towards the implementation of the APIA and efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability.
An honorary diploma was given to:
The Municipality of Kozloduy for the visible efforts to improve the provision of access to information by increasing their active transparency.
The Padlock anti-award was given to the Council of Ministers of Bulgaria for deteriorating the practice introduced by the previous government to make accessible online the complete transcripts of the meetings of the Council of Ministers, as well as other administrative decisions of the CoM. The anti-award was also given for failing to implement the rules for transparency of the state companies’ money adopted by the Caretaker Government (March – May 2013).
The Tied Key anti-award for an absurd administrative decision on an access to information request was given to the Sofia Municipality. Instead of providing information to a request for the number, the grounds for establishment, and the borders of the security sectors in Sofia, the Director of Directorate “Public Order, Wartime Training and Emergency Management” responded that “in a global context such kind of information is of interest to terrorist and anarchical groups and organizations.” In this regard, the requestor was informed that a copy of the request would be sent to the State Agency “National Security” and to the Ministry of Interior for their official statement.
The 2013 RKD Awards Ceremony opened with the song “Breathe” which was composed in 2011 and dedicated to the event.
The ceremony was broadcast live on Internet: http://www.bta.bg/bg/pressclub/id/1069/.
Damianitza JSChas kindly contributed to the celebration of the Right to Know Day again.