Kosovo’s institutions are not transparent in offering information

Kosovo’s institutions are not transparent in offering information

IBNA Special report

Pristina, October 22, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Elton Tota

The situation in the domain of free access of information in Kosovo leaves much to desire, although legislation for access to official documents exists.

Main state institutions are not transparent with civil society to make public the official documents that they possess.

Media and civil society find it difficult to secure access to government documents, laws and normative acts approved by the government and ministries, as a result of institutional bureaucracies.

It took four years to realize that the law on access to public documents has no effect in increasing the transparency of public institutions.

The low level of the application of this law to Kosovo has been considered as one of the most illustrative elements of the lack of transparency in the latest progress report issued by the European Commission.

For this reason, Association of the Journalists of Kosovo has launched a public debate in order to push forward the necessary changes in the law for access to public documents.

The head of this Association, Zekrija Shabani, says that there must be a law which clearly determines judicial penalties in case access to official information is not given.

“We’re very worried about the reality that media in Kosovo face toward the legal obligations that public institutions have to offer information. The law doesn’t determine the court and it doesn’t specify the penalty”, Shabani says.

The Ombudsman too demands changes in this law. The spokeswoman of this institution, Majlinda Lulaj, says that the law must clearly define the responsible mechanisms and penalties.

“It’s necessary to create or give power to a mechanism which would have executive powers that would force institutions to offer public documents or punish cases of refusal”, says Lulaj.

Albulena Syla from the Department for Communication with the Public at the Prime Minister’s office, said that a debate has started now as to whether changes are needed for this law. According to her, there also exists the idea of introducing a Commissioner for information with executive powers.

“We’re examining the change of the law, but also the idea of introducing a Commissioner for Information, which is the second rank in the hierarchy of public institutions”, says Syla.

Nevertheless, for Agron Demi, head of the Institute for Advanced Studies, GAP, this law is not that deficient. Although there have been many refusals for access to public documents and the cases have been referred to the court, Demi says that the law needs to be applied and not changes.

“We object to the incentive for the change of this law. The law is not a bad one. Perhaps, all it needs is a legal act. The problem is that there’s no readiness to apply it, like it happens to many laws”, says Demi.

Authorities in Kosovo are examining the possibility of applying European Commission Directive no. 2013/37/EU for the reuse of information of public sector.

If its applied in all its elements, this directive guarantees access to public documents and increases transparency, as a prerequisite for good governing.

This aims and observing and evaluating the activities of public authorities. According to the directive, access to public documents makes other civil and political rights, especially right of speech and right of information, easier to be benefited. /ibna/