The Access to Public Information Act (APIA) has its practical application in the work of media as it regulates access to information about the authorities, the work of the institutions and important events in the public life. That is why, twelve years already, journalists seek information as actively as citizens and nongovernmental organizations.
Shortly after the adoption of the
APIA in 2000, journalists were skeptical about its efficiency, mostly because
of the timeframes it stipulates for the provision of information, but also due
to the stipulated procedure for submission of written requests. Such a reaction
is understandable. Journalists prefer quick answers to the questions because
they need the information “here and now.” They don’t have time to wait. Very
often it is completely unjustified to submit written requests, to get a number in
the register, and to have to wait two weeks for an answer to simple questions
like: how much is the remuneration of the prime minister and the ministers; how
many cases were brought to court against a respective institution; what is the
number of children sheltered in special institutions; when will the provision
of social support funds for the heating period start, etc.
At the same time, AIP experience shows that the written form of request for information can be very useful, especially when it comes to references containing complex data that have to be verified and processed; in cases when the journalistic publication or program is not limited by deadlines – for example, journalistic investigations, biographical books, or reviews on the activities of a particular state bodies; ineffective press centers, etc.
Gradually, the initial suspicion with regard to the practical application of the APIA in the journalistic work disappeared. During the last several years, we have observed an increased interest of journalists and media to use the procedures under the APIA to obtain access to documents necessary in journalistic investigations revealing corruption practices and wrongdoings of government officials. Journalists most frequently seek information regarding the decision making process, the spending of public funds, procurement and concession contracts of high public interest, results from inspection works of different public bodies. They request information from central authorities, authorities of local self-government and other bodies obliged under the APIA
Certainly, it is not always easy and without problems to obtain the information, regardless of the fact that the requestor works for a big media or is a famous journalist. The cases that we publish here, as well as the litigation started after refusals of access to information, indicate this practice.
We hope that the information we publish will be useful for those who just start their search for information, as well as those with some experience behind. The practical goal of this web site is to serve as an online data base of AIP experience acquired during the years’ work with journalists.