SKOPJE, March 14, 2013 – A group of Macedonian journalists were acquainted with the practices and experiences of their Bulgarian colleagues and experts on how to inform better the public through the application of the Law on Free Access to Public Information, during a three-day study visit to Bulgaria.
Attorney-at-law in the Access to Information Program in Sofia, Alexander Kashumov, who helps journalists in the exercise of this right, encouraged Macedonian journalists to use more all the opportunities that are available through the Law to gain information from state institutions.
Kashumov stressed that Bulgarian institutions nowadays publish lot of information that earlier journalists have been obtaining by submitting requests for access to public information.
Aleksenija Dimitrova, editor in one of the biggest newspapers “24 Hours”, who released exclusive and confidential information on domestic and foreign policy of Bulgaria in the last 15 years through the mechanisms for access to public information, encouraged Macedonian journalists to use this right not only for everyday reporting, but also for in-depth research and reporting.
Experience shared among fellow journalists from the two countries showed that Bulgarian journalists have greater access to detailed information from various public registers. Hence, during the period from 2006 to 2009 there were about 26,000 requests for access, but there is a decreasing trend in the recent years. Thus, in 2011 there were 8,800 requests due to the fact that more and more information and databases are publicly available.
“Although I have published sensitive information about domestic and foreign policy of Bulgaria, I didn’t face any pressure or repercussions to stop investigating or publishing the obtained information,” said Dimitrova.
Study visit to Bulgaria (March 11-13) is realized within the project “Access to information – source for better information quality” funded by the European Union through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
Center for Civil Communications is committed to raising awareness among journalists for greater application of the tools of investigative journalism, including the mechanisms of free access to public information. Recently, CCC issued policy brief for greater application of this right by the journalists. It calls for a legal amendment to shorten the deadline for institutions to respond to requests for access to information from current 30 calendar days to 15 working days.