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April 07, 2007

Promoting the Freedom of Information Act in Serbia


 Since the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Serbia in 2004, the Rule of Law Initiative has taken a leading role in promoting the use of and compliance with FOIA by courts, judges, and prosecutors. The number of FOIA requests tripled in 2006 and the Rule of Law Initiative's programs were recently highlighted in the Public Information Commissioner's 2006 Annual Report on the Implementation of FOIA.

During the past year, the Rule of Law Initiative has partnered with the Belgrade Center for Human Rights to conduct five trainings on FOIA compliance for 138 representatives of courts and prosecutors' offices, as well as three FOIA outreach events for 76 members of the general public, NGOs and journalists. The Rule of Law Initiative also organized the International Right to Know Day. On this day, over 50,000 "I Have the Right to Know" leaflets were distributed to citizens in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, and Kragujevac; also, a ceremony was held in Belgrade honoring the Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection for its leadership in the proper implementation of FOIA in 2006. Regional Director CEE/WNIS, Rob Lochary, opened the ceremony attended by various representatives of government ministries, courts, donor institutions, and the media.

Finally, in partnership with the Coalition for Free Access to Information and the Office of the Commissioner, the Rule of Law Initiative recently conducted a thorough assessment of the current statutory framework and implementation of FOIA in Serbia. This assessment, expected to be published and disseminated in May 2007, will be the basis for future FOIA reform efforts.