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ARTICLE 19 and 67 international groups call on legislators to reject amendments that would weaken Access to Public Information Act

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 21 May 2007 ARTICLE 19 press release:

68 Sign Protest Letter Against Bulgarian FOI Amendments

A letter calling on members of the Bulgarian National Assembly not to pass proposed amendments which would substantially weaken the national system for access to information was endorsed by 68 organisations and individuals from around the world. The letter, drafted by ARTICLE 19, was sent to legislators earlier today.

The proposed amendments to Bulgaria's Access to Public Information Act were passed by the National Assembly at the first reading. Many of the proposed changes breach established international standards on the right to information and appear specifically designed to hinder access to public records.

The following concerns were highlighted in the letter:
- Requesters would be required to prove a legal interest in the information they wish to access.
- Public bodies would no longer be required to provide partial access when only some of the information in a requested document is confidential.
- The time limit for responding to requests would effectively be doubled, going from 14 calendar days to 20 working days.
- The rule limiting fees charged to actual costs would be replaced by one allowing any fee "not considerably exceeding actual costs".

ARTICLE 19 calls on Bulgarian legislators to ensure that Bulgaria respects its international and constitutional obligations by refusing to pass the proposed amendments into law.
ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression.

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