The meeting dedicated to celebration of the International Right to Know Day, 28 September was held today at the Media Centre in Belgrade with participation of a large number of representatives of media, NGOs, government bodies and diplomatic chorus members. Addresses were made by: Milan Marković, Minister of State Administration and Local Self-government, Ambassador Hans Ola Urstad, head of OSCE Mission to Serbia, Saša Janković, Ombudsman, Nadežda Gaće, President of the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia, Tamara Orlandić on behalf of the Open Society Fund and NGO Coalition on Freedom of Access to Information and Rodoljub Šabić, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance.
In connection with the celebration of the International Right to Know Day, Commissioner Rodoljub Šabić said the following:
“It is well known that there are many problems in the implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information. Still, on this day, which is celebrated in a similar way in more than hundred countries in the world which are or want to be democratic countries, it makes sense to give credit to the efforts and results of government bodies which improve their public relations.
Overall, given the structure of the government, the efforts made and results achieved in improved implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information fall below what is necessary and feasible. We are thus missing an opportunity to produce better results in further democratization, establishment of better relationships in the media sphere and especially in combating idleness, abuse, crime and corruption. This is exactly why the examples of these public authorities, which show that they see the freedom of access to information not as an imposed obligation, but rather as the normal relationship between the government and the public in a democratic society, deserve full acclaim.“
On that occasion, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, Mr. Rodoljub Šabić, presented the president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Miloš Bugarin, with an award for outstanding contribution to the exercise of freedom of access to information, which the award committee granted to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and network of regional commercial chambers. The representatives of the Provincial Secretariat for Information, city of Šabac and First Municipal Court in Belgrade received awards for contribution to the exercise of freedom of access to information.
The award committee, comprising representatives of a number of non-governmental organizations and journalists' associations (Open Society Fund, Transparency Serbia, Centre for Advanced Legal Studies, NGO “People's Parliament”, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Independent Journalists Association of Serbia), selected the recipients among 14 short-listed public authorities. These included: Republic Public Attorney's Office, Supreme Commercial Court with network of 17 commercial courts, Fifth Municipal Court in Belgrade, the District Court in Novi Sad, Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government, Ministry of Diaspora, Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Provincial Secretariat for Information, the City of Novi Sad, municipality of Novi Beograd, the City of Šabac, the City of Valjevo and the City of Smederevo.
In anticipation the International Right to Know Day, a number of activities was organized in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš, Novi Pazar and many other towns and cities across Serbia, as part of a joint action of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and OSCE Mission to Serbia, USAID, ABA CEELI, Open Society Fund, NGO Coalition on Freedom of Access to Information and the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia. All these events were used to distribute a large amount of handouts, bulletins, leaflets and Guides through the Law on Free Access to Information.