INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Today, September 28, is the INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO INFORMATION. On that occasion, under the motto “You have the right to know”, the Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information informed about the importance of the timely availability of information and the activities undertaken by the Agency in the direction of ensuring greater transparency of institutions and greater awareness of citizens.
The Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information began its work at the end of 2019 as the successor of the Commission of the same name. In almost a year, the number of holders of public information has increased by 146 new holders, and today the Agency has recorded 1403 holders of information of a public character on the list of holders.
One of the Agency’s key activities is the continuation of training and consultations with the persons responsible for providing public information, thereby increasing the transparency of the institutions themselves.
“Transparency and accountability of institutions and the right of citizens to access public information are the basis of democratic processes in society and one of the basic European values. These are values and rights that our society stands for. The Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information has a key role in protecting and realizing the constitutionally guaranteed right to free access to information of citizens, as well as promoting and encouraging the transparency and openness of information holders for comprehensive information on the citizens,” – said Plamenka Bojcheva, director of the Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information.
With the law adopted in 2019, the provisions for the execution of criminal sanctions against the holders of information who did not act upon a request for access to the same have been specified, which is a significant tool for improving the results of the Agency.
“In this way, we finally have a tool through which, as an agency, we can influence greater transparency and justify the trust of the applicants. In the first two months of this year, 2020, the Agency acted on more than 750 backlogged cases from the period of the Commission, and at the same time, it is currently acting, within the legal deadlines, on the newly received complaints, which to date are more than 600”, – noted Blerim Iseni, deputy director of the Agency.
Furthermore, the Agency informs that for a faster and better flow of information, the new website www.aspi.mk is in the final stage of development, where all interested parties will be able to get the necessary information, directions and contacts. There are also e-portals for owners and public information requesters that enable the electronic submission of a request. The website and e-portals are being developed within the project activity of the IPA2 project financed by the EU, “Promotion of transparency and accountability of the public administration of the Republic of North Macedonia” (ProTracco). Through this project, several activities are planned in the direction of strengthening the capacities of the agency through reorganization, development of regulations and strategic documents, as well as the implementation of modernized IT tools for providing improved services for the requesters and holders of public information, raising public awareness about the right to free access to information, increasing the responsibility and transparency of state authorities, as well as strengthening the capacities of information holders to fulfil the legal obligations and EU standards in this area.
To promote the importance of free access to public information, two videos were made for all potential information requesters and information holders. NDI Macedonia made the video presentations for the Agency in cooperation with VIDI VAKA, and the financial support from USAID.
“I would hereby like to encourage citizens, civil society organizations, and the media to use the right of free access to public information, thereby encouraging the transparency of information holders. Of course, it is the legal obligation of the holders of public information to ensure transparency and access to information.
Moreover, the Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information is available at any time to support these processes and contribute to the strengthening of an open and accountable society with informed citizens”, Bojcheva said.
Together with the started development projects, the Agency informed that in the coming period, it would strengthen and increase its team, and at the same time, the cooperation with the non-governmental sector and other interested parties will be continued and strengthened.
Additional information about the Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information is available at www.aspi.mk.