Media NGOs express their concern over the fact that the Commission for Emergency Situations (CES) has doubled the period for replying to inquiries for information of public interest during the emergency period.
According to point 26 of CES Order No 3 of 15 April 2021, ‘during the emergency period, the legal period for replying to inquiries for information formulated as part of exercising free access to information of public interest, as well as to petitions shall be doubled’.
We remind that according to the Law on Access to Information, providers must deliver the requested information to the applicant within 15 business days. At the same time, the Law allows to extend this period by five business days if a very big volume of information was requested or additional consultations are needed to be able to reply to the inquiry.
Thus, due to CES Order journalists and citizens can expect a reply from the public authorities to a request for information only after 30 business days, which practically amounts to 42 calendar days.
We emphasize that the media representatives have so far faced a multitude of obstacles and difficulties in obtaining information of public interest, but doubling the legal period for replying to inquiries for information is another barrier intended to decrease the transparency of public authorities and institutions operation.
We believe that doubling of the period for replying to inquiries for information of public interest is a disproportionate and unjustified measure that could result in dissemination of inaccurate and speculative information, which should be combated namely by the state authorities.
Given the difficult situation our society faces, we need, more than ever, to give the public correct information quickly. The lack of information can lead to panic and result in people trusting public authorities less.
With regard to the above mentioned, we call on the members of the Commission for Emergency Situations, by virtue of their legal duties, to stop the deviation from the standards regarding access to information of public interest and to adopt a balanced policy on applying exceptional measures that limit the rights and freedoms guaranteed by law.
Independent Journalism Center
Association of Independent Press
Association of Electronic Press
Center for Investigative Journalism
Press Freedom Committee
Association of Independent TV Journalists
Environment and Ecotourism Journalists’ Association