Proactive transparency and the right of access to information: Two sides of the same coin

Societies which are seen as democratic societies are generally envisioned as an environment in which the government operates for the benefit of its citizens and works together with the citizens. One of the values of a democratic order of a country is the transparency of work of its administrative structures, as well as full respect of the inalienable rights of its citizens. Proactive transparency and free access to information are the
basic methods of communication between a state and its citizens.

When speaking about Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), a country which is, at least declaratively, a democratic state, it is still very far from the ideal when it comes to these two aspects of democracy. Its lack of openness
partly stems from its historic background from the time of communism, when it was not customary to ask the government to justify its actions or working methods. However, now, for this state which is striving towards
EU and Euro-Atlantic integration and membership, it is necessary to change this paradigm of communication between this state and its citizens. In order to build the citizen’s trust in the administration, the administration needs to be transparent, its work needs to be visible and understandable to the citizens, because in that way the possibility of corruption and abuse of power is reduced, and the citizens are enabled to take active participation in decision making processes. However, it is still too early to speak of the existence of a consistent proactive transparency in BiH.

According to the research of the WeBER project, perception of the civil society pertaining to the quality of legislation and the practice of access to information of public importance is low for all Western Balkan
countries, but BiH and Montenegro are at the very bottom. The results of this research for BiH show that less than 30% of the CSOs agree that the public administration authorities record enough information within their
work in order to provide the public with free access to information of public importance. Furthermore, only 20% of the surveyed CSOs consider the exceptions to the presumption of public character of information to
be adequately defined in the legislation and adequately applied in practice. However, some positive views are held towards practical aspects of requesting information: information is provided in requested format, within deadlines, and free of charge. Furthermore, the research has also shown that the information provision on the websites of the institutions lacks a citizen-friendly approach. Publicly available information is only partially complete and updated, and accessible within maximum three clicks from homepages of the institutions.

For more information, read our policy brief here.