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Freedom of access to information

Freedom of access to information is conditio sine qua non in a democratic society and constitutes constitutional category which appears as independent right, i.e., as integral part of right to freedom of expression determined by Article 10 of ECHR. This right is basic democratic citizens' right and is very important tool in ensuring of the rule of law and good governance. Access to information enables citizens to control elected representatives and protects against misusage, and also enables participation of citizens in determination of governmental priorities, which also goes to concept of good governance, which means open government functioning on principles of effectiveness, transparency and lawfulness. With a view to ensure realization of concept of good governance, governmental institutions are obliged to ensure transparency of their work through duly and comprehensive information on their activities and provide them to the public, meet needs of the citizens, ensure accessibility and transparency. Right to access to information includes access to users of information, i.e., availability of information and right to further dissemination of available information. What should be particularly stressed is that right to access to information is not „against„ the authorities, but in favor of both „citizens“ and „the authorities“. Freedom of access to information is as such prescribed in a number of international documents, including UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Article 19); UN Covenant on Political and Civil Rights (Article 19); European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 10); Recommendations by the Council of Europe, Aarhus Convention, etc.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a democratic country seeking to accession to EU membership, is the first country in region which in 2000 adopted Freedom of Access to Information Act, at first on the State level and then in 2001 in both of its entities. According to listed pieces of legislation, the Ombudsman for Bosnia and Herzegovina shall perform its functions in relation to this Act in accordance with its mandate and responsibilities as established under Article II paragraph 1 of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Annex 6 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and any subsequent legislation regulating its competence and responsibilities. In performing its functions in relation to this Act, the Ombudsman for Bosnia and Herzegovina may inter alia consider creating and disseminating information such as guidelines and general recommendations concerning the administration and implementation of this Act, includes in its annual report a special section regarding its activities in relation to this Act; and propose instructions on the implementation of this Act to all competent ministries within Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a view to realization of its competence determined by the Act, Ombudsman Institution established mechanism for following for following of the situation in this area in the way that it follows implementation of obligations of public organs set forth by the Act and acts upon complaints filed with Ombudsman Institution.

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