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Representatives of the governmental and non-governmental sector discussing the proposed changes to the Law on Access to Information of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo today, agreed that the existing legal provisions were better than the proposed changes. They also proposed that a public debate be held in order to discuss improvements to the existing Law.
The Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina published a draft law on changes and amendments to the Law on Access to Information in May. Contrary to the provisions of the existing law, the proposed changes stipulate that public institutions can restrict the sharing of information if publishing the information might jeopardise the right to privacy.
Mehmed Halilovic, an expert in media issues, said that the proposed changes “suspend the testing of public interest”.
The draft law foresees that public bodies will not limit access to information related to the use of public resources, performance of public functions and court decisions in cases of general interest.
Halilovic pointed out that, although the proposed changes said that institutions would always share court decisions in cases of general public interest, the transparency in the work of judiciary would be lost if the proposed law was adopted.
He also pointed to problems arising from the anonymisation of court documents, including the use of initials instead of first and last names, names of institutions and cities – a practice implemented by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Anonymisation has caused chaos. If the Court Regulations were applied by the media too, we would read in newspapers that H. H. committed crimes in Z.” Halilovic explained.
Anonymisation of documents began in March last year after the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina accepted a recommendation from the Agency for Protection of Personal Data of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Representatives of the agency said today that it was subsequently determined that “their recommendation was wrongly interpreted”.
During the debate it was pointed out that all existing laws on free access to information in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be harmonised and that some parts of the existing law should be revised. The debate was organised by the Center of Cultivating Dialogue in collaboration with the Justice Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The draft law on changes of and amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information has been uploaded to the webpage of the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Citizens can comment on the proposed changes to the Law online until tomorrow.