Black Monday for the Freedom of Information
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) lost the first round in its landmark Freedom of Information case on Monday, the 24th of January, in Budapest. In November, 2004, the HCLU filed a lawsuit against the Hungarian Constitutional Court. HCLU then asked the Budapest Court to release the petition of Csaba Hende, Member of the Parliament. The Constitutional Court denied providing the information, so HCLU started a Freedom of Information case at the Budapest Court.
As the Budapest Court stated on Monday, the Constitutional Court cannot be forced to release the information – because, as the Budapest Court stated, the petition is not information at all. In some other questions the Budapest Court accepted HCLU’s arguments, and it became clear that the Freedom of Information Act applies to the Constitutional Court. But the main question, what is considered “Public Interest Data” (the main terminus in the Hungarian Freedom of Information Act) after the first level court decision seems to remains unclear.
HCLU continues to fight in the case, and naturally will appeal to the second level Court. If the decision of the first level Court remains unchanged, contracts and other documents of state agencies and other relevant pieces of information could be judged as not public. Hungarian courts and the practice of the Hungarian Data Protection Ombudsman many times stated in the past that these kinds of documents must be treated as Public Interest Data.
HCLU still has a clear legal and moral point of view on the case: a petition of a Member of the Parliament, which aims to change the Criminal Code (in this particular case the MP filed his petition against some paragraphs of the Criminal Code) is relevant to every citizen, and thus needs to be treated as Public Interest Data, and we have the clear right to know it.
For more information please contact:
The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union www.tasz.hu firstname.lastname@example.org tel./fax: +36 1 209 0046
Balazs Denes Executive Director HCLU