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Bosnia CSOs Warn that New FOI Bill Will Limit Citizens’ Rights

View of the parliament and Council of Ministers in Sarajevo, December 16 2022. Photo: EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

Civil society organisations say new Freedom of Information Law will in practice limit citizens’ rights to information of public interest even more than current legislation.

A group of 20 civil society organisations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, gathered in the Initiative for Monitoring European Integration, has issued a warning on “the shortcomings of the Draft Law on Freedom of Access to Information of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” which Bosnia’s state-level government, the Council of Ministers, adopted on April 12. 

“The adopted Proposal would significantly limit access to information of public interest, given that it contains a long list of exceptions or possible restrictions on access to information,” the Initiative said, adding that the new law would threaten “already acquired rights and achievements,” which is not in accordance with international practices. 

“The proponent of this law turned the European standard of open and free access to public information into an exception, not a rule, which in practice could lead to the impossibility of accessing a large amount of information of public importance,” they added. 

The Initiative underlined that the Ministry of Justice, in charge of drafting the law, had ignored more than 200 comments and proposals sent by the organisations during the consultations period in 2021. 

They also noted that the ministry also did not consider recommendations by “competent institutions of the European Commission and SIGMA regarding the formation of a new independent body that would perform inspection supervision of the implementation of this law”. 

“The members of the Initiative are preparing amendments to the adopted Proposal in order to improve it and bring it into line with international standards,” the Initiative added, inviting other CSOs, media, citizens and international community to join the discussion on the law, before it is voted in the House of Representatives of the state-level parliament. 

Bosnia’s current Law on Freedom of Information was enacted in 2000. In 2001, similar legislation was adopted at entity levels. Meanwhile, in Brcko District, a separate administrative district of Bosnia, the Instructions for the Implementation of the Freedom of Access to Information Law are already in effect.

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