– an opportunity for democratic political culture

In an effort to facilitate access to information concerning public authorities via the Internet and to contribute to transparency and responsibility toward citizens, the Programme for Croatia and GONG NGOs on Tuesday presented a new Internet platform – where citizens can search, in three steps, information concerning 6,000 public bodies.

The new web site is a joint project by the NGOs and the Information Commissioner Anamarija Musa who prepared a list of government agencies which will continually be updated.

We have a good Freedom of Information law and implementing framework and now the ball is in the court of citizens who can now search information concerning almost 6,000 government agencies and relevant information concerning citizens’ rights, Jelena Berkovic from GONG told a press conference on Tuesday. Berkovic perceives this as an opportunity for everyone to “monitor how our democratic political culture is unfolding.”

Applications for access to information are the same as hard-copy versions. Government agencies are obliged to give answers and if they don’t within the set deadline the platform informs the applicant. Citizens don’t need to know the e-mail address of the government agency they are enquiring about but simply need to state they they wish to have access to certain information or documents and they will be answered.

Applicants are required only to state their name and surname. All enquiries will be public and filed in a permanent archive and other users will be able to access data previously searched for. “The portal represents a significant step forward in promoting and realising the right to access information in Croatia,” said Musa, adding that the greatest challenge in the coming period will be to inform citizens about the actual site because if citizens are not going to use it then it serves no purpose.

She advised that government agencies receive around 20,000 enquiries each year, with 650 complaints and that two-thirds referred to lack of information by public agencies.