Round table on Implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information


On September 28. 2005 YUCOM organized round table in Belgrade on Free Access to Information as part of a regional project “Campaigning for Freedom of Information and Free Access to the Official Documents as the Best Tool for Combating Corruption”. YUCOMs partners from the region Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) and Center for Free Access to Information Sarajevo (CSPI) simultaneously organized round tables in Sarajevo and Zagreb, promoting reports for Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina.

The date chosen for organizing this event is Right to Know Day, simultaneously celebrated in large number of countries, promoting citizens rights to FOIA. Speakers in Belgrade were Information Officer in Republic of Serbia, head of Transparency Serbia, Open Society Institute Belgrade, Belgrade Center for Human Rights and YUCOM.

Serbian Parliament Finally adopted The Law on Free Access to Information on November 2004 after a 2 year campaign, lobbying and pressuring from civil sector .

More than 50 persons took part in round table from government officials, Supreme Court, District Court, Ministries, Serbian Parliament, domestic and foreign NGOs. All mayor TV and Radio stations and printed media from Serbia (plus Voice of America, Oslobodjenje from Sarajevo, Novi list-Croatia and Radio Sarajevo) were present and made reports that were shown the same day in prime time news or printed in the next day edition (B92, Radio Belgrade, ANEM, TV Studio B, RTV Pink, newspapers Politika, Danas, Vecernje novosti etc.)

Information Officer of Republic of Serbia pointed out constructive role of NGOs involved in Free Access to Information and thanked them for publishing Guide to Law on Free Access to Information , Free Access to Information and Public Administration.

YUCOM showed on specific cases how Law can be implemented and the campaign that started as a reaction to the Request for Information that YUCOM sent.

On the round table YUCOM promoted The Final Report Serbia – Free Access to Information. This throughout research was a part of a simultaneous regional activity on monitoring the implementation of the Law in Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Serbia.

The Final Report for Serbia made by YUCOMs experts represents a research based on sending Requests for Information, YUCOM coordinated actions and in cooperation with citizens, local NGOs, local entrepreneurs, representatives of minority groups and journalists during June 2005, sent out more than 100 requests for access to information to different organs of public governance in Serbia (. In three countries requests were sent to 20 institutions of public govrenance (Government of the Republic of Serbia, President of the Republic of Serbia, Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Comerce and Turism, Ministry of Finances, Regional Court in Belgrade, Supreme Court of Serbia, Constitutional Court of Serbia, Law School in Belgrade, Mayor, Parliament, and City Council of City of Belgrade, administration of towns of Požarevac, Niš and Zaječar, Republican Radio-Diffusion Council, Republican Agency for Privatization, Yugoslav Airlines (JAT), and Ministry of Defense of Serbia and Montenegro).
The first results obtained suggest that the Government of Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Economy, Regional Court in Belgrade, Supreme Court of Serbia, Constitutional Court of Serbia, administration of City of Belgrade, JAT, and the Ministry of Defense of Serbia and Montenegro have not replied to any of the submitted requests within the legal timeline, which clearly implies lack of knowledge and operational capacities or unwillingness to contribute to full implementation of FOIA law. This constatation is specially alarmant in the case of the Government of Republic of Serbia, since one of its basic constitutional roles is to assist in implementation of laws. In this case we can thus conclude that already recognized trend of current government to neglect its obligations towards transparency to citizens continues. In addition, the fact that none of the addressed courts have reacted, not even to the easiest of questions (like, for example, who is the person that represents the Supreme Court in public) is also disturbing. Finally, the President of Serbian Parliament have given answer to just one of the requests sent, the one sent by a journalist, which brings about the possibility of discrimination towards citizens and NGOs, which is against the Law that clearly states importance of freedom af access to information as a right given to all.

On the other side, the received number and quality of answers distinguishes the following organs and institutions: President of Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Commerce and Turism, Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection, and the Law School in Belgrade, that have mainly answered to all the requests sent, without a difference between different kinds of questions (that is, easy, complex, and sensitive).

The other institutions targeted by the research have answered selectively, only to certain types of questions.

Conclusions from the Round Table:

• the Law is partialy implemented and must be a subject of further more campaign for improowing the implementation

• amendments must be included into the law in order to make it more effitiant

• cityzens must be aware of the tools set by the law and benefits

• the Law is a perfect tool for usage for combating corruption

Report made on September 29, 2005


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