City Council moves to counter freedom of information act

Roskilde, Odense, Gladsaxe, Helsingør and Aarhus councils are all leaning towards passing a similar law that would maintain transparency at the council level

May 24th, 2013 1:47 pm| by admin

The oft-criticised freedom of information act (offentlighedslov) proposal received another blow yesterday when the Copenhagen City Council approved a proposal from Enhedslisten (EL) aimed at maintaining transparency at the council level.

EL’s proposal is based on a principle that citizens and the media should enjoy the highest amount of transparency possible when attempting to gain insight into council policymaking.

“The City Council must, as much as possible, work towards transparency and openness in our administration and I am really pleased with this law,”  Rikke Lauritzen, an EL spokesperson, told Berlingske newspaper.

The City Council law means that, as opposed to the proposed offentlighedslov expected to be passed by parliament in the coming weeks, the public will still be allowed to exercise their right to access governmental documents.

Rasmus Jarlov (Konservative), said that the ratification of the council law is a strong signal to parliament that Copenhagen is not satisfied with the government’s offentlighedslov proposal, which is supported by the government, Venstre and Konservative.

“We want to promote transparency, not the opposite, and the council law is a political indication that we want more openness,” Jarlov told Berlingske.

The ratification of the City Council law means that the council's legal team will now compare the current and upcoming offentlighedslov before deciding on a final course of action to ensure an open forum in the council.

”We need to sit down and come up with the final guidelines for what we want to give the public access to,” Lauritzen said. “The important thing is to have no transparency reduction, because it is essential to democracy and it is a massive hindrance when politicians dim the lights.”

The law that was passed in Copenhagen has also been proposed in the councils of Roskilde, Odense, Gladsaxe, Helsingør and Aarhus, and the majority of them expect the proposal to pass.

Over 83,000 people have now signed the ‘NEJ tak til den nye offentlighedslov’ petition and thousands demonstrated against the proposed law in front of parliament last week. The move has also been lambasted by international transparency watchdogs and journalist associations.

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