Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

In Slovakia, a Website Shines the Spotlight on Infamously Corrupt Judiciary

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, July 31 2013

Screenshot of the Google Translate version of Open Courts

The rampant corruption in Slovakia's judicial system has inspired a documentary called “Disease of the Third Power,” and approximately 70 percent of Slovak people do not trust it. Slovakia also holds the dubious honor of being one of only 20 countries where the judicial system is thought to be more corrupt than political parties or parliament. Enter Otvorené Súdy – or Open Courts – a website that makes information on judges and rulings easily accessible and, hopefully, the entire system more transparent, which went live last week.

The site was designed by two students, Pavol Zbell and Samuel Molnár, as part of their studies. They went on to win funding for the project from a civil society activism challenge called ReStart Slovakia, and had additional support from Transparency International.

The head of Transparency International Slovensko Gabriel Šípoš hopes the website will open up a debate about the judicial system.

“An untrustworthy judiciary influences not just the business environment, but also the quality of life,” Šípoš said in a press release.

One thing that distinguishes this project from many other civil society initiatives is that the creators do not align themselves with other civil society activists. Their larger goal was to make information – already open and free information, by the way – more accessible to the public. They are not championing a reformation of the judicial system, even though their website could be leveraged to do so by others.

Chris Worman, director of program development for TechSoup Global, the organization that sponsored the ReStart Slovakia competiton, sees their work as part of a larger trend in civil society activism. He wrote about the project The Guardian earlier this year:

Yet there they are, almost unintentionally helping create more transparent democracies. And their work exemplifies an emerging form of civil interaction. They, and many others like them are playing by a new set of rules that use for-profit tech startup techniques and rely on a social media-like model.

What they deliver before they jump to the next thing, however, can be immensely valuable – particularly if it is leveraged by organisations [sic] focused on systemic change.

Hopefully when Zbell and Molnár move on, they continue to find themselves unintentionally creating change for the better. In the meantime, the code is available on GitHub for anyone interested in emulating them.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More