Access to Public Information
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The Administrative Court of Sofia in Bulgaria held that the Access to Public Information Act extends to private meetings between government officials, and ordered that minutes of a meeting between the Presidents of Bulgaria and Russia must be disclosed to a journalist who had sought the information relating to the meeting.
This case analysis was contributed by Right2Info.org.
In April 2010, Lachezar Lisicov, a Bulgarian newspaper journalist, requested the minutes of the January 18, 2008 private meeting held between the President of Bulgaria and President of Russia. The Bulgarian President’s administration did not disclose the information within the required time of 14 days established by the law. With the assistance of the Access to Information Program (AIP), Lisicov filed a complaint before the Administrative Court, alleging that the mute refusal was unlawful as the Access to Public Information Act (APIA) requires the public authority to issue an explicit decision on the request.
The central issue before the Administrative Court was whether the government’s refusal to provide the requested information was permissible.
The Court ruled that the requested information is public information under article 2(1) of the APIA because it concerns the activities of the President in foreign policy, and as such the APIA is applicable. The Court noted that, based on the Regulation on the Implementation of State Protocol Act, private meetings are not excluded from the general obligation to make and keep records. Though the meeting was between only the two presidents and not attended by others, it was still an official meeting and the fact that the conversation was between the two heads of state was insufficient to consider it confidential. Further, the Court held that even if it were confidential, the President’s administration should have provided an explicit refusal to disclose the information.
The Court ordered the administration to disclose the requested information.
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