"Every year, we have celebrated this Day with the idea of promoting the Law, pointing out problems, proposing some solutions, and rewarding the deserving ones. Unfortunately, this year we are in a situation where, instead of talking about the realization of rights, we are talking about abuse that burdens all public authorities in their work, especially schools, kindergartens, centers for social work, local communities, those with the least financial and personnel capacity to carry out regular duties, and especially to respond to a large number of requests for free access to information," said Commissioner Milan Marinović in his introductory speech during the celebration of the International Right to Know Day, held today at the Serbian Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
He also pointed out that this phenomenon is gaining momentum due to the change of the Administrative Court position by which information seekers and appellants have the right to legal expense reimbursement. By the end of September, on this basis, the said authorities court-ordered to collect 22,000,000 dinars. He also emphasized that the Commissioner's Office is now doing all in its power to prevent these abuses, wanting to "return the right to access information to its purpose". Commissioner Marinović also said that this is the first year that the amendments to the law are implemented, which include a more significant number of authorities that publish their Work Information Booklet on the new Unified Information System of Information Booklets platform. "Amendments to the law provide the punishment for "administrative silence" and so far we have collected 5,000,000 dinars in fines on this basis," said Commissioner Marinović.
In addition to Commissioner Marinović, representatives of foreign delegations in Serbia also participated in the introductory speech: the Head of OSCE Mission to Serbia, H.E. Jan Braathu, Acting Head of the Mission of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade Nadia Ćuk, Manuel Munteanu, Head of Press and Information of the EU Delegation to Serbia and the USAID to Serbia Mission Director Brooke Isham. In their introductory speeches, they exchanged opinions on the adopted amendments to the Law, unanimously spotlighting that free access to information is a prerequisite for the accountable work of public authorities.
On this occasion, awards were conferred to authorities for the promotion of the right to free access to information in 2023: in the category of republic authorities - the National Academy for Public Administration; in the category of judicial authorities - the Higher Public Prosecutor's Office in Smederevo, in the category of local self-government units - the Authorities of the City of Leskovac; in the category of provincial authorities - the Assembly of AP Vojvodina. Since the amendments to the law have expanded the range of government authorities, this year we have also introduced an award for new authorities, such as the category other authorities, won by PUK "Waterworks and sewerage" Subotica. Additionally, two more special awards were established. The Faculty of Law of the University of Kragujevac received the first special award for contribution to education in the field of access to information of public importance, while the second special award for the successful fulfillment of legal obligations under difficult conditions was conferred to the elementary school from Kosovo "Šarski odred", Sevce-Štrpce, bearing in mind that in extremely difficult working conditions they fulfilled their legal obligations, which many authorities from Central Serbia and AP Vojvodina failed to do. We do not have the opportunity to confer the award for special contribution to the affirmation of the right to access to information of public importance every year, but this year we were pleased to confer it to the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM), which has helped numerous authorities at the local level, especially local communities in fulfillment of the legal obligation to publish Work Information Booklets.
Slavoljupka Pavlović, Acting Assistant Secretary-General, presented the new Publication XII – “Positions and Opinions of the Commissioner” while Zlatko Petrović, Acting Assistant Secretary-General, presented the results and experiences from the first year of operation of the Unified Information System of Information Booklets.