Newspaper denied access to documents behind new freedom of information law

Three political parties and the Danish media have had little insight into how the new controversial freedom of information law was drafted

February 26th, 2013 2:30 pm| by admin

The new freedom of information law, offentlighedslov, is being voted on in parliament today, but opposition parties and the media have been left in the dark as to how the new more restrictive law ended up finding the backing of parliament’s five principal parties.

Earlier in February, Information newspaper submitted a freedom of information request for documents detailing the drafting process of the law, but the justice ministry has refused to hand over the documents until April, long after the new law comes into effect.

Parliament’s three parties that don’t tend to supply ministers to coalition governments – Dansk Folkeparti (DF), Endhedslisten (EL) and Liberal Alliance (LA) – were all left out of the negotiations for the new law and are all set to vote against it.

MP Pia Adelsteen (DF) stated earlier this month that it was no surprise that the law was written and supported by the five parties that normally supply ministers to governments.

“The offentlighedslov is what we use to keep tabs on those in power, and the law now contains a little under-the-table agreement between the ministerial parties,” Adelsteen told Politiken. “I think that says it all.”

Critics point out that the new law, which has been ten years in the making, will widen the scope of documents that are exempt from freedom of information requests to include documents that ministers use to draft and discuss ideas with both civil services and other government ministries.

Had the law already been in place, they argue, many scandals, including the infamous Taxgate affair, would never have been uncovered.

Earlier in February, justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), defended the new law and explained  that it was designed to protect ministers from being targeted in the media while they develop their ideas.

“Politicians need to have the opportunity to try out ideas and get feedback during the legislative process that we are constantly working on,” Bødskov told Politiken newspaper. “In general I don’t think that the public affects the legislative process. But both our proposal and the former government’s proposal are built upon recommendations made by the Freedom of Information Committee and strike a balance between more openness on the one hand, and introducing some limitations on the other.”

Information newspaper is now accusing the government of not abiding by the current freedom of information law that states documents should be handed over at most seven days after the request was made – Information’s request was made 13 days ago.

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