Madrid, 1 July 2015 – Access Info Europe today condemned the proposal by the Hungarian government to amend the Freedom of Information Act in ways that would seriously limit the exercise of the right of access to information in Hungary.
Hungarian civil society is reacting strongly to the proposal put by the government to an accelerated decree process in parliament which would result in arbitrary fees for searching for data and for copying and delivering it.
Other concerns are that the new rules would permit refusal of requests on the grounds that documents are “preparatory” or the copyright of third persons and rejection of repeat requests even if initial requests have not been answered.
Another worrying dimension of the new rules is that they could be used to deny access to information coming from third countries – which could include much of the information obtained from the European Union.
Despite being an EU members state and a participating country in the Open Government Partnership, democracy has been on the backslide in Hungary for a number of years now, with the activities of independent civil society under pressure and a series of curbs on media freedom.
The FOI Act, which was the first in central and eastern Europe, adopted in 1992, has already been a victim of this negative trend, having been weakened through constitutional changes in 2011 that resulted in the parliamentary information commissioner being abolished.
In spite of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “jokingly” greeting Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban with “Hello dictator” in May, little has been done by the EU to halt the repeated attacks on civil liberties in Hungary.
“It is high time that the EU and the global open government community took seriously the threats to democracy in Hungary,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.
“The right of access to information is essential to control authoritarian tendencies in what is a currently, at best, a very fragile democracy,” added Darbishire.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire | Access Info Europe
Send an email or telephone +34 667 685 319