Western Balkans Have Yet to Embrace Freedom of Information

Between January 2017 and June 2019, BIRN journalists submitted 854 official requests to access public documents in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. With the aid of the information gained from these requests, BIRN produced numerous investigative pieces and so exposed wrongdoing by governments, companies and powerful individuals.

On the basis of the submitted FOI requests, BIRN has also published an in-depth analysis of institutions' openness to FOI requests across the countries of the Western Balkans. This shows that while Freedom of Information laws in the region are among the most liberal in Europe on paper, implementation of these laws is well below European standards.

Implementation also varies between the Western Balkan countries themselves. Some countries are showing an improvement, for example, by public institutions publishing large amounts of data and documents.

Others, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, lag behind. It is now the only country in the Balkans that does not even offer access to public records in electronic form. In some other countries, like Montenegro and Serbia, there has been a decline in implementation, as a result of legislative changes and political pressure.

Of the 854 official requests that BIRN submitted to access public documents, less than half of them, 408, were actually approved; 224 were partially approved, meaning the institutions provided only technical information, while 221 requests were either rejected or no answer at all was received, despite repeated follow-ups from the journalists.

Looking at the ratio between requests that were submitted and answered positively, in Albania the score was highest, at 61 per cent. It was followed by Kosovo, at 56...

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