Freedom of information law to be evaluated after three years

Government bows to increasing public pressure over new freedom of information law that is feared will decrease Denmark’s democratic transparency

May 1st, 2013 9:39 am| by admin
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

The new freedom of information actoffentlighedslov, which outlines which government documents the public can access, will be evaluated and debated in parliament three years after it takes effect, the government announced yesterday.

The announcement follows growing public opposition to the new law – which hasn't been passed in parliament yet but has been agreed upon between the government and opposition parties Venstre and Konservative – due to the inclusion of two clauses in particular.

Clause 24 will restrict the public’s right to access documents exchanged at a time when ministers are drafting ideas with representatives from the civil service, while clause 27 will restricts access to documents (aktindsigt) compiled and exchanged between ministers and MPs in connection with laws or other corresponding political processes.

Opponents of the law fear that these two clauses will allow the government to hide documentation that exposes irregularities and abuses of power.

The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), argues however that the clauses are designed to be used only in rare circumstances.

“What’s important is that [the two clauses] are not abused,” Bødskov wrote in a press release. “They both need to be used in very limited circumstances. That’s why I’m pleased that we’ve agreed to involve the parliamentary ombudsman in the evaluation of theimplementation of these two rules. I think the evaluation will ensure that parliament and the public will be able to make sure [the rules] are not used as an excuse to create secrecy, as critics of the law have argued.”

Almost 70,000 people have signed a petition calling for the government to withdraw the law, and last week nine editors of major news publications wrote an open letter to the government explaining why they felt the law would limit democratic transparency.

The new evaluation deal, struck between the same parties who support the offentlighedslov, will require the  parliamentary ombudsman to assess how the law has been implemented after three years.

The Justice Ministry will use this report to start a consultation process to evaluate whether the law needs changing, followed by a parliamentary debate.

MP Pernille Skipper from Enhedslisten, one of only three parties to oppose the law, argues that yesterday's announcement reveals a level of guilt on the part of the government, which otherwise has refused to acknowledge that the new law could cause problems.

"If Morten Bødskov has now discovered, like the rest of us, that the proposed freedom of information act is problematic, then he ought to be a man and remove the offending clauses," Skipper told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Ulliel (left) has succeeded in inhabiting an even creepier character than the lead role he played in ‘Hannibal Rising’
Film review of ‘Saint Laurent’
In yet another example of the extraordinarily poor timing exhibited by the ...
They just scored a hund-in-one
What if Tiger’s immense golf talent had stayed in the woods?
Some of my fondest memories growing up in the Smith household back in Bligh...
Who’s to blame? Nerdy Smurf, Skinny Wallace, Mr Strong or Jolly Green Dwarf?
At Cinemas: Pixar’s latest Perisher pleaser is here
Providing your Danish is in good nick, there’s no shortage of releases th...
The Malmo stadium has a capacity of 24,000, but for CL games it's reduced to 20,500 due to restrictions on standing areas (photo: MT96)
Neighbours Malmö FF land Real Madrid and Zlatan Ibrahimović
Football fans south of the Øresund kept an eye on today's Champions League...
A similar view will await  Andreas Mogensen when he becomes the first Dane in space next week (photo: iStock)
Denmark needs to double its investment in the space industry, advises DI
Dansk Industri (DI), the Confederation of Danish Industry, has today recom...
The shipping and logistics company DFDS has more than doubled its operating profits this year in comparison to the first half of 2014 (photo: iStock)
Profits soaring at the top Danish companies
A study of the 2015 interim financial results of Denmark's 32 top companies...