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The public is still waiting for complete and verifiable information from the Information system COVID-19

Statement of the Coalition for Freedom of Access to Information

Public confirmation of suspicions that inaccurate data on the number of deceased persons from COVID-19 were published during the summer, transfer of responsibility for that to unnamed "computer scientists", and absence of any reaction from those "computer scientists", the "Milan Jovanovic - Batut" institute and the Serbian government, more than ever confirms the need for publicly available authentic data from the COVID-19 Information System. This is the only possible way to verify whether inaccuracies in numbers occurred when entering data into the database or whether they were falsified afterwards.

In Serbia, the right to access information during a pandemic has been seriously threatened by unjustified secrecy, especially when it comes to the procurement of medical equipment. Moreover, the data on the number of tested, sick and deceased persons, which are communicated to citizens daily, are still not verifiable, even though reasoned doubts about their authenticity have seriously damaged the trust of citizens.

In mid-July, the Coalition for Freedom of Access to Information, with the support of dozens of civil society organizations and the media, submitted a request for free access to information of public importance to the Institute of Public Health of Serbia "Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut" to publish reliable information on the epidemiological situation in the Republic of Serbia in order to restore shaky trust between the government and the citizens.

Since it is an indisputable interest of the public to find out the data that are important for the population’s health protection, the institute was obliged to act on this request within 48 hours. In its response to the request, the institute referred us to the website of the Office for Information Technologies and e-Government. The response of this government office, however, unequivocally shows that the data in its possession are not complete, i.e. that its website does not publish data that could be taken directly from the database of the Information System COVID-19, which was established based on the government's conclusion.

The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, deciding on the appeal of 90 associations, ordered the institute “Batut” to submit the requested information within seven days. The institute received that decision on 4 September 2020, but even after almost a month did not act on the order of the Commissioner. The coalition submitted a proposal to the Commissioner for the implementation of the solution.

We recall the following:

During the month of June, reporting on data from the COVID-19 Information System, concerning SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, deaths and other epidemiological data, led to public outrage. At the same time, the reporting was directly contrary to the obligation established by the Government of the Republic of Serbia itself with the Conclusion on the Establishment of IS COVID-19. Namely, this conclusion prescribes the obligation to update this data in an open format, as well as to submit anonymized data to the Office for Information Technology and Electronic Administration, which should publish them on the official website https://covid19.data.gov.rs/

The SHARE Foundation has mapped the data flows in the state Information System COVID-19 (analysis + video), which clearly shows that there should be no inconsistencies in the data if the system is used in the manner prescribed by regulations and instructions issued by the state.

In a statement for TV N1, epidemiologist Dr Predrag Kon from the Crisis Staff, on September 30, 2020, said that the team “communicated all the information it had, that nothing was hidden, and that the difference that appeared between the number of deaths from the number that was officially announced is responsibility of IT specialists who gave incorrect data”.

The right for truthful, complete and timely information on issues of public importance, i.e. the right to access information, is a fundamental right of every person. We hope that the requested information will be provided without further delay in order to remove doubts in the public and restore confidence in the health and epidemiological system, and so that the citizens of Serbia would not be denied the right to information guaranteed by the Serbian Constitution and international conventions to which Serbia is a signatory.

List of organizations in alphabetical order:

1.Akademija ženskog liderstva

2.Akademska inicijativa "Forum10"

3. Asocijacija lokalnih i nezavisnih medija "Lokal pres"

4. Asocijacija onlajn medija - AOM

5. Astra

6. Bečejsko udruženje mladih

7.Beogradska otvorena škola

8.Beogradski centar za bezbednosnu politiku *

9.Beogradski centar za ljudska prava *

10.BIRODI

11.Boom93, Privredno društvo Boom93 d.o.o.

12.Centar modernih veština

13.Centar za integritet, Niš

14.Centar za istraživačko novinarstvo Srbije - CINS

15.Centar za monitoring i aktivizam - CEMA

16.Centar za podršku ženama

17.Centar za praktičnu politiku

18.Centar za prava deteta

19.Centar za primenjene evropske studije- CPES

20.Centar za razvoj građanskog društva PROTECTA

21.Centar za razvoj lokalnih medija

22.Centar za samostalni život invalida Srbije

23.Cenzolovka, SĆF

24.Civil Rights Defenders – Srbija

25.CRTA *

26.Da se zna!

27.Dnevni list Danas, DAN GRAF d.o.o.

28.Društvo protiv korupcije – DRPKO

29.FemPlatz

30.Fondacija "Hajnrih Bel" u Beogradu

31.Fondacija za otvoreno društvo Srbija*

32.Građanske inicijative *

33.Građanski Forum Novi Pazar

34.Grupa IZAĐI

35.Grupa za konceptualnu politiku

36.Helsinški odbor za ljudska prava

37.Inicijativa mladih za ljudska prava *

38.Inicijativa za ekonomska i socijalna prava –A11

39.Inicijativa za prava osoba sa mentalnim invaliditetom (MDRI-S)

40.Internet portal JUGmedia, Centar za edukaciju i razvoj

41.Istinomer

42.Javno glasilo Peščanik

43.JUGpress, Centar za demokratiju i razvoj juga Srbije

44.Južne vesti, Simplicity d.o.o,

45.Komitet pravnika za ljudska prava – YUCOM *

46.KontraPRESS

47.Media i reform centar Niš

48.Mladenovački glas

49.Mreža SOS Vojvodina

50.Nacionalna koalicija za decentralizaciju

51.Narodni parlament *

52.Nepušački Edukativni Centar RP

53.Nezavisno društvo novinara Vojvodine

54.Nezavisno udruženje novinara Srbije - NUNS

55.Nova Naša reč

56.Novinska agencija FoNet

57.Novosadska novinarska škola

58.NVO Atina

59.NVO Roma World

60.Odbor za ljudska prava Negotin

61.Odbor za ljudska prava Niš

62.Odbor za ljudska prava Valjevo

63.Partneri za demokratske promene Srbija *

64.Podrinjski Anti-korupcijski Tim - PAKT

65.Pokret "Novi optimizam"

66.Portal Dijalog Net

67.Portal Pressek Agencija „Gerila ADV

68.Pravni skener

69.Radio City o.d. Niš

70.PRAXIS *

71.Regulatorni institut za obnovljivu energiju i životnu sredinu

72.SHARE Fondacija *

73.Slavko Ćuruvija fondacija

74.SO Info

75.Stalna konferencija romskih udruženja građana (SKRUG) – LIGA ROMA

76.Toplički centar za demokratiju i ljudska prava *

77.Transparentnost Srbija *

78.Udruženje građana "Dijalog"

79.Udruženje građana Institut za istraživanje korupcije „Kareja”

80.Udruženje građana Negotin-Majdanpek-Kladovo-Bor – NE-BO

81.Udruženje građana Sretenje, Požega *

82.Udruženje mladih "Naš svet, naša pravila"

83.Udruženje novinara Srbije – UNS

84.Udruženje Forum žena Prijepolja

85.UG Pravo na pravo (PnP) Niš

86.Užički centar za ljudska prava i demokratiju

87.Vreme, NP "VREME" d.o.o.

88.YUROM Centar

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