Everyone has the right to access documents of public importance, although it is most often expected from journalists, the editor of the Crno Beli Svet portal, Sanja Sovrlic said. It is important to use this option because institutions are not the private property of individuals and everyone has the right to know how citizens’ money is being spent, Sovrlic added.
Although everyone has the right to submit a request, in some way this is most often expected from journalists. I would say that in addition to journalists, civil society activists should be more active in searching for data of public importance, because we cannot expect citizens to be so engaged
In the latest episode of the media literacy campaign “OpisMEDIJavanje,” Sanja Sovrlic spoke about what information is of public importance, who can access it and how, and why respecting the law on access to information of public importance is important both for citizens as individuals and journalists as professionals.
„Information of public importance is information found in the documents in the possession of the authorities – local or central institutions, which is subject to or for which there is public interest. These are various memoranda, contracts, agreements, draft budgets and the like. There is a wide range of documents that are of public interest,“ Sovrlic underlined.
A request to access such documents may be submitted by any citizen, in writing or orally, or by submitting a request to the official in charge of public information, she said, adding:
„In Kosovo, however, you often deal with institutions that do not have officials in charge of receiving such requests. Very often, they use this as an excuse that they cannot or do not have the capacity to respond to those requests.“
Sovrlic, however, stressed that the information seeker should not be satisfied with this, or with a reply that does not provide full information. She urged them to use every legal option available to force the institutions to do their job – by addressing the Ombudsman or the competent regional court.
Proper functioning of institutions in terms of implementing the law on access to information of public importance is important not only because of the transparency of work and insight into how public money is spent, but also because of the quality of reporting.
„It is incredible how much having just one document can improve the quality of journalists’ reporting. Find and read news articles that are only based on the statements of some interlocutors who say – for example, someone said this and that, someone else refuted it. And then read those that were written with the use of certain documents which confirm or refute someone’s claims and you will see that the difference between the two is unbelievable.“
Finally, Sovrlic called on the institutions to publish as many documents as possible, at their own initiative, in order to reduce the need for requests for access to public documents. Furthermore, she urged the citizens to make sure that the document they need is already available online.
„Before you send a request for information of public importance, use all the options provided by Google, search the sites of the institutions from which you are requesting information. So, first use all options, because you never know whether the information you are looking for is hidden somewhere on some institution’s website,“ Sovrlic concluded.
The KoSSev portal, in cooperation with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, launched a media literacy campaign. See what other journalists have had to say in the previous episodes of “OpisMEDIJavanje”:
Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.