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The Public's Right to Know - obstacles have not been removed

Transparency Serbia, on the occasion of the International Day of the Public’s Right to Know, indicates that over the past 13 years, for how much citizens of Serbia have had a legally guaranteed right to access information, this is the most important preventive anti-corruption mechanism.

However, in the past year, none of the key issues that inhibit the realization of this right more effectively is resolved. The deadlines for the improvement of the Law on Free Access to Information have been moved several times. The last such deadline, from the Action Plan for Chapter 23 of the EU integrations has expired 10 months ago, and the draft of modifications and amendments on which there should be a public debate has not been published yet. In 2017, the Assembly still did not discuss the report on the implementation of this law, submitted by the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance.The latest report on the occasion of which at least the Assembly conclusions were adopted refers to 2013. The Government continues to fail to enforce the Commissioner's decision when other authorities fail to comply with their obligations, and often ignores the requests itself. This, among other things, occurred in the case of the requests made by Transparency Serbia during this year in the connection with the procedure for the competition for directors of public companies and the appellation of the Supervisory Board members [1].

Because of this state of things, it rejoices when a problem is solved in a systematic way. After our research on the effectiveness of the state aid [2], the Ministry of Economy has started to publish Subsidy Contracts [3]. More information about the work of the authorities in Serbia and the world becomes available thanks to digitization and the Internet. Information is increasingly found in a form that is suitable for searching and further use. Although such initiatives are useful in our opinion [4], above all, the fulfillment of obligations to the authorities to make available documents (in any form) should be provided. In addition, citizens can not get to some information because state authorities have not done their job (eg. Implementation of control, analysis of the situation) and the information of the public interest is not created.

Since, despite the rights that the Law provides to the most citizens, they do not ask about the work of the authorities directly, but receive them through a broker, it is important that the media will use the already published data and search for additional information. For such a thing, a system in which the state will help create a program of public interest is important, instead of spending money from the budget and revenues of public companies for the purchase of political influence in the media [5]. No less important for the realization of the role of the media is that the government treats equally all who respect the standards of the profession, in particular as regards the possibilities to obtain information from the institution, and statements from the public officials. Numerous examples, including the reasons outlined in the connection with the extinction of the newsweekly “Vranjske” [6], showed that the current legal norms are not sufficient to achieve these goals.