The International Right to Know Day, 28 September, has been celebrated this year with a number of activities in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Kragujevac and many other towns and cities across Serbia, as part of a joint action of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and USAID, ABA CEELI, OSCE Mission to Serbia, Open Society Fund, NGO Coalition on Freedom of Access to Information and the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia.
The central event took place in Belgrade, at the Media Centre, with numerous representatives from the media, NGO's, public authorities and members of the diplomatic chorus. Addresses were made by: Mr. Dennis Huber, special representative of CoE Secretary General for Serbia, Mr. Hans Ola Urstad, head of OSCE Mission to Serbia, Mr. Rodoljub Šabić, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, Ms Nadežda Gaće, president of the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia and Mr. Nemanja Nenadić, executive director of Transparency Serbia.
On that occasion, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, Mr. Rodoljub Šabić, presented the president of the Supreme Commercial Court, Mr. Rade Lazarević, with an award for outstanding contribution to the exercise of freedom of access to information, which the award committee granted to the network of commercial courts of Serbia. The Minister for Public Administration and Local Self-government, Mr. Milan Marković, and the president of the Municipality of Smederevo, Mr. Saša Radosavljević, 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 15 short-listed public authorities. These included: Supreme Court, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government, National Bank of Serbia, Serbian Public Procurement Administration, Executive Council of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, the City of Novi Sad, municipalities of Smederevo, Šabac and Valjevo, First and Fifth Municipal Court of Belgrade and Supreme Commercial Court, i.e. network of commercial courts.
All these events were used to distribute a large amount of handouts, bulletins, leaflets and Guides through the Law on Free Access to Information.
In honour of the International Right to Know Day, the Commissioner for Information, in collaboration with the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, published and distributed a new edition of the Guide through the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance in 20,000 copies.
In connection with the presentation of the awards, Commissioner Rodoljub Šabić said:
“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 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.”