ACCESS TO INFORMATION IS EASIER NOW
By: Krenare Sogojeva Dërmaku
Implementation of the right of access to information – is security for citizens, a value for the state and democracy.
Making Information and Privacy Agency functional also marks a beginning of the supervision of the implementation of the Law on Access to Public Documents, which links the obligation of public institutions to be open to the public, on the one hand, and guarantees the right of citizens to have access to information, on the other.
Despite the perceptions within public institutions so far that the procedures for providing access to public documents may overburden their administration, implementation of this citizens’ right proves the commitment of the state to respect, inter alia, the right of citizens to know more about any public institution and to feel part of their activity. Furthermore, it is an obligation of the public institutions to publish any public document produced, received, retained or controlled, in electronic format, on their official website, regardless of a person’s request for access.
For purposes of ensuring easier access to information, for the first time in Kosovo, the Commissioner for Information and Privacy has been mandated, as an independent body within the Agency, to function in the capacity of an appeal authority for citizens, whenever public institutions deny this right.
The exercise of legal powers of the Agency as an appeal authority for the citizens is done with the use of binding mechanisms, respectively, such as by imposing fines and effectively supervising public institutions in the implementation of legal norms for access to public documents. Despite existing barriers, which, inter alia, relate to the lack of human and budget resources, the Agency, within a short time, managed to draft the first necessary bylaws for its functioning, adapted its internal organization to function independently and effectively and is continuing its investment in the two-tier network of officials of public institutions to increase their transparency.
For the first time, Information and Privacy Agency will mark the International Day of Universal Access to Information, on September 28th, proclaimed as such by the UNESCO Resolution in 2015. This will be done to raise awareness of the public opinion on how to implement their right to access public information in the easiest way, and on the public institutions not to refuse this constitutional and legal right. We will continue with this tradition every year, as all countries of the democratic world do.
Citizens of Kosovo throughout the week (September 28th – October 1st) will have the opportunity to be informed in a more detail of what rights are guaranteed by the Law on Access to Public Documents, in particular, how to file a complaint in cases when access is refused. They will be able to get this information through the media, which will follow the activities of the Agency and of non-governmental organizations in the squares of the capital city and in the six largest cities of the country, or even directly, by becoming part of the surveys that will take place in these public spaces related to this topic.
The strengthening of the right to information is an indicator of functioning of democracy in a country. My core objective, as Commissioner, remains to ensure the implementation of the right to have access to public documents. Therefore, access to information is easier now, as it is easier also the implementation of the right to know. To achieve this, the citizens of Kosovo have another, new, and open door.
(The author is the Commissioner of the Information and Privacy Agency)