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Freedom of Information Reloaded

Freedom of Information Reloaded

Judicial guarantees remain, but there is no more independence of supervision

Budapest, 23 June, 2011- General discussion about the Freedom of Information Bill is beginning today. Transparency International Hungary (TI) considers it as a positive side of the proposal that public information requests and related legal remedies still remain fast and simple. Although, in its opinion sent to MPs, it drew attention to the vulnerability of the new rules and the National Data Protection and Freedom of Information Authority’s dependence on the government.

TI considers merit of the proposal that it has retained internationally recognized structural elements of the Hungarian freedom of information control. Thus, if someone do not have access to public data, it is still possible to develop a quick and simple court procedures. At the same time, the former Ombudsman remains,  now becoming the official way of remedy as well. On the other hand, it mentions as negative side of the proposal that the independent Ombudsman which was responsible to the Parliament will be replaced by an authority chaired by the President appointed by the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Prime Minister. Thus the authority of the executive will not be independent and as a result, it will not be able to defend the citizens’ fundamental rights against the branch of power to which they are most exposed to.

TI also considers it as a setback that rules regarding data protection and freedom of information has been directed by the two-thirds law and all the other laws had to adhere to this one, while the new law’s pivotal part is only that one which considers the authority. This is problematic as thereby any other act can introduce rules that are contrary to the right of informational self-determination and the right of Freedom of Information Act, and in case of the possible collision of the two laws, the basic law guaranteeing the right will no longer enjoy priority.

More positively, however, the organization highlights the innovation that if the disclosure of the decision-making data is limited then it should be considered beforehand, whether the disclosure or the blocking of the data is in greater public interest.

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