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Acces to Information of Public Importance

Contents of right regarding access to information of public importance.

Four basic legal rights regarding access to information of public importance (Article 5):

  • the right of applicant to be informed whether the public authorities have specific information, i.e. whether it is otherwise accessible;
  • the right of the applicant to have the information of public interest accessible by providing free of charge insight in a document containing the information;
  • the right of the applicant to obtain a copy of the document containing the request information, upon reimbursing the necessary costs of copying the document;
  • the right of the applicant to receive a copy of the document sent to the address by mail, fax, electronically or otherwise, upon reimbursing the costs of sending.

If the requested information is already available to the public, the applicant is entitled to be informed by the body where and when it was published.

If the document contains information that the public has no legitimate interest to know, the applicant has the right to accessto other parts of the document.

What Can I Request (How and From Whome)?

What can be requested?

The Law guarantees freedom of access to information of public importance to every person.

What is information of public importance?

It is information contained in documents held by any public authority, created during or relating to its operations and which the public has a justified interest to know. (Article 2 of the Law).

Freedom of access to information is therefore basically the right to access offical documents.

When does justified interest of public to know exist?

According to the Law, justified interest of the public to know exist with regard to any information held by public authorities. Thus there is a legal assumption in favour of an applicant that justified interest of the public to know exist and the applicant does not have to provide evidence he/she has interest in certain information or his/her interest is justified, because this is assumed under the Law. A public authority must not demand of an applicant to specify a reason for filing a request.

If public authority denies to certain information, it must provide evidence that disclosure of such information to an applicant, i.e. to the public, could seriously violate some other overriding interest which is also legitimate, such as the interest of safety of country or privacy of others.

As regards the so-called privileged information concerning threats to or protection of public health and the evironment, a public authority does not have the right to try to demonstrate that the public does not have a justified interest to know such information.

How is the procedure initiated?

The procedure for exercise of this right is initiated by filing a request for free access to information of public importance to a public authority.

A request can be made in writing or verbally. A public authority may prescribe a model request form, but it must also take into consideration requests not filed on such form. Where information is requested verbally, a request is entered in special record kept by an authorized officer of a public authority responsible for access to information.

An applicant states the following in a request:

  • Name of the public authority concerned,
  • His/her name, surname and address or address of a registred office if the applicant is legal entity,
  • Description of requested information
  • Other details which facilitate search for the information.

From whom can information be requested?

Information can be requested from any public authority within the meaning of this Law which, to the applicant's best knowledge, should hold such information, taking into account its sphere of competence. Public authorities are:

  • All goverment authorities ( e.g. National Assembly, the Goverment, ministries, courts, public attorney's office etc.)
  • Territorial autonomy and local self-government authorities ( e.g. the Provincial Council of the Autonomous Provincie of Vojvodina, provincial secretariats, mayors, municipality presidents, municipal administrative authorities etc.)
  • All organizations vested with public powers (e.g. privatization agencies, telecommunication agencies, environment protrction agencies etc., faculties and other institutions, public enterprises)
  • Legal entities founded or financed completely or predominantly by the abovementioned authorities (e.g. institutions in the field of culture, health institutions, state funds etc.).

Who Can I Complain To?

The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance is an autonomus public authority, who exercises his/her powers independently and who, under the Law, possesses the authorities of second instance in the consideration of requests for access to information of public importance. The duty of Commissioner for Information of Public Importance has been carried out by Rodoljub Šabić, as of December 22nd 2004. With the coming into force of the Law on Personal Data Protection on November 4th 2008, and its application as of January 1st 2009, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance carred on with his duties under the title of Commisioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, whose jurisdiction includes supervision in this field, apart from personal data protection.

Contact information:
15, Kralja Aleksandra Boulevard
11000 Belgrade
Serbia

E-mail: office@poverenik.rs
Telephone: +381 11 3408 900
Fax: +381 11 3343 379

Lodging of complaints with the Commissioner

An applicant (a citizen, a journalist, the media etc.) can lodge a complaint with the Commissioner in the following cases:

1. If a public authority refuses to inform the applicant whether it holds the requested information or whether it is otherwise accessible, refuses to allow insight in the document containing the requested information, refuses to issue or to submit to the applicant a copy of the document (depending on what has been requested), or fails to do within the general statutory deadline of 15 days. It is a complaint against the so-called "silence" of authorities.

For exceptionally justified reasons, the deadline for response of a public authority may be 40 days from the date of filing of request, it being understood that the authority must notify an applicant thereof immediatley upon receipt of the request.

In case of information of importance for the protection of life or freedom of a person or threats to or protection of public health and the enviroment, the deadline for response of an authority is 48 hours.

An applicant will enclose with a complaint lodged with the Commissioner for "silence" of authorities a copy of the request filed to a public authority and evidence of its submission or sending. Such complaint can be lodged upon expiry of the statutory deadline for response of an authority of 15 days and if the applicant receives requests information in the meantime after lodging the complaint, he/she can withdraw the complaint lodged with the Commissioner.

2. A complaint can also be lodged with the Commissioner against a decision of a public authority denying an applicant's request or against a conclusion rejecting his/her request for formal reasons. The deadline for lodging of a complaint in this case is 15 days from the date of submission of a decision or a conclusion to an applicant. An applicant must enclose with such complaint a copy of his/her request and copy of the decision or coclusion of a public authority against which the complaint is lodged.

Filing charges with the Administrator Court

Complaints cannot be loged with the Commissioner against decisions of the Natural Assembly, the President of the Republic of Serbia, the Goverment of the Reepublic of Serbia, the Supreme Court of Cassation of Serbia, the Constitutional Court and Republic Public Prosecutor passed in a procedure of deciding on the right to access information or against failure of these authorities to act on a request. In such cases, judical redress is ensured in administrative proceedings in the Administrative Court of Serbia and an applicant can file charges with the Administrative Court within 30 days of the date of submission of a decision.

An applicant can also file charges with the Administrative Court if one of the six public authorities listed above fails to act on a request within statutory deadline, it begin understood that in such cases the Court requires that another formal condition under the Law on Administrative Proceedings be met, namely that the applicant resubmits the request to the authority concerned and the latter fails to reply within a further deadline of seven days upon repeated request.

An applicant can also file charges with the Administrative Court if he/she is not satisfied with the Commissioner's decision passed following his/her complaint.

Information Accessibility - Forms