UNDER OMBUDSPERSON’S ORGANIZING THE INTERNATIONAL RIGHT TO KNOW DAY HAS BEEN MARKED
With intention of marking the International Right to Know Day, the Ombudsperson organized a Discussion Forum with the theme “The right to know - Legislation and the Practice in Kosovo”
The purpose of organizing such event was a reflection on the right to know, as a fundamental concept for institutional accountability and transparency, providing speakers' thoughts on legislation that ensures compliance with this right and its practical implementation, including the functionality of mechanisms which ensure access to official documents and information in our country.
Officials of public authorities, civil society representatives and journalists were present in this Forum. Discussions focused on identification of legal shortcomings and challenges concerning the legislation on Access to Public Documents and practical implementation and institutions’ readiness for transparency have been specifically pointed out.
In this context, the Ombudsperson pointed out that the right to know poses two obligations towards public authorities: proactive approach in publishing key information as per their work, as well as the readiness to respond to interests and requests for access to information or public documents.
From overall deliberations made by the participants, it was concluded that:
• As a basic concept in accomplishing transparency and accountability, the right to know rests at the core of the functioning of a democratic society. Delivering and receiving information ensures citizens’ participation and involvement in decision-making processes;
• Access to information ensures transparent and accountable governance;
• Guarantees which the Constitution stipulates through three specific Articles: Article 40 – Freedom of Expression; Article 41 – The Right of Access to Public Documents; Article 42 – Freedom of Media, and also through direct implementation of International Agreements and Instruments in our country and the constitutional decisive requirement to refer to European Court of Human Rights practice, are a good legal base for public transparency and accountability, which makes the principle of access to information and public documents undeniable as a rule, and refusal as an exception;
• Journalists and members of civil society play an important role as public guardianships of the work of public authorities and their involvement is extremely important and irreplaceable;
• Capacities of public authorities should be strengthened, and in accordance with domestic legislation, obstacles in provision of public information and documents should be eliminated as well as mechanisms that empower such issue should be functionalized;
• Lack of political will, the silence of institutions, lack of legal punishments for authorities/responsibility holders, which become an obstacle in the provision of important public information and documents, harmonization of legislation and elimination of legal collision, remain challenges that require attention and alternatives in a function of transparency and public accountability.
At the end of this Forum, the Ombudsperson expressed his gratitude to participants for their positive responses to OI invitation and gave their contribution in deliberations and reiterated citizen's interest in further empowerment of the transparency.