WORKING MEETING OF THE AGENCY AND SIGMA/OECD
Today, a working meeting of the Agency for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information was held in the Agency’s premises with representatives from SIGMA/OECD and the non-governmental sector. The mission of SIGMA/OECD is to learn about the operation of administrative courts in Western Balkan countries, as well as the impact of their decisions on the work of institutions, particularly those dealing with free access to public information.
Timo Ligi, the senior advisor for development policies and coordination at SIGMA/OECD, was eager to share the experiences of administrative courts in cases of lawsuits filed against the Agency’s decisions made in the appeals procedure due to restrictions on access to public information.
Plamenka Bojcheva, the Agency’s director, acquainted Ligi with the Agency’s legal competencies as a second-level authority that acts on complaints concerning the requests for free access to public information and how the provisions of the Law on General Administrative Procedure are applied. In most cases, the holders of public information act upon the submitted requests and provide the applicants with the requested information owing to the fact that the Agency works in compliance with the misdemeanor provisions of the Law on Free Access to Public Information.
Based on previous experience, the agency has had cases when requesters of information initiate Administrative Court proceedings against the Agency’s decisions and vice versa. Namely, there are also cases when the information holders initiate an administrative dispute against the Agency’s decisions. In the second instance, the Agency representatives highlighted the inconsistent practice of the Administrative and Higher Administrative Courts pertaining to the question of whether the information holders as first-instance authorities can appear as plaintiffs.
Furthermore, Director Bojcheva emphasized that the number of complaints in 2022 has decreased and that the reason for this decline will be revealed in the following period of annual reports obtained from the holders of information. The agency is also working to improve the proactive transparency of the information holders, particularly the judicial authority.
Finally, it was agreed that more training sessions are needed for the judicial representatives, not just for the officials, but also for the judges who act upon and make decisions in cases involving free access to public information so that they become familiar with the Law on Free Access to Public Information and the constitutional right that guarantees the free access to information, as well as the freedom of receiving and transmitting the information. In turn, this would help them reach more informed decisions.