What can be requested?
The Law guarantees freedom of access to information of public importance to every person.
What is information of public importance?
It is information contained in documents held by any public authority, created during or relating to its operations and which the public has a justified interest to know. (Article 2 of the Law).
Freedom of access to information is therefore basically the right to access official documents.
When does justified interest of the public to know exist?
According to the Law, justified interest of the public to know exists with regard to any information held by public authorities. Thus there is a legal assumption in favour of an applicant that justified interest of the public to know exists and the applicant does not have to provide evidence he/she has interest in certain information or that his/her interest is justified, because this is assumed under the Law. A public authority must not demand of an applicant to specify a reason for filing a request.
If a public authority denies access to certain information, it must provide evidence that disclosure of such information to an applicant, i.e. to the public, could seriously violate some other overriding interest which is also legitimate, such as the interest of safety of the country or privacy of others.
As regards the so-called privileged information concerning threats to or protection of public health and the environment, a public authority does not have the right to try to demonstrate that the public does not have a justified interest to know such information.
How is the procedure initiated?
The procedure for exercise of this right is initiated by filing a request for free access to information of public importance to a public authority.
A request can be made in writing or verbally. A public authority may prescribe a model request form, but it must also take into consideration requests not filed on such form. Where information is requested verbally, a request is entered in a special record kept by an authorized officer of a public authority responsible for access to information.
An applicant states the following in a request:
- Name of the public authority concerned,
- His/her name, surname and address or address of a registered office if the applicant is a legal entity,
- Description of requested information, and
- Other details which facilitate search for the information.
From whom can information be requested?
Information can be requested from any public authority within the meaning of this Law which, to the applicant’s best knowledge, should hold such information, taking into account its sphere of competence. Public authorities are:
- All government authorities (e.g. the National Assembly, the Government, ministries, courts, public attorney’s office etc.)
- Territorial autonomy and local self-government authorities (e.g. the Provincial Council of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, provincial secretariats, mayors, municipality presidents, municipal administrative authorities etc.)
- All organizations vested with public powers (e.g. privatization agencies, telecommunication agencies, environment protection agencies etc., faculties and other institutions, public enterprises)
- Legal entities founded or financed completely or predominantly by the abovementioned authorities (e.g. institutions in the field of culture, health institutions, state funds etc.).
A list of public authorities is published on the Commissioner’s official website under the heading Public Authorities Catalogue.