Parliament on Tuesday approved a ruling Fidesz bill to put data related to public organisations under the purview of the State Audit Office and the Government Control Office.
Fidesz said the law, which critics say could potentially limit access to data of public interest, seeks to prevent “abuse of data requests” that hinder the operation of the data-handling organisations.
Access to public-interest data will be regulated by the new data protection act instead of the civil code from March 15, 2014, when the new civil code comes into force.
During Monday’s parliamentary debate on the motion, opposition lawmakers said it served to prevent access to information concerning the government’s disputed tobacco concession tender. According leaked information reported in the media, some Fidesz officials were involved in picking the winners of a recent national tobacco tender.
Transparency International Hungary told MTI on Tuesday that four civil organisations had asked the Fidesz and co-ruling Christian Democrat group leaders to withdraw the bill on freedom of information with immediate effect.
A letter signed by Transparency International, whistleblowers atlatszo.hu and K-Monitor and human rights organisation Hungarian Civil Liberties Union was also sent to Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics. The new law would gift government offices with the right to decide on what constitutes information in the public interest, they said.
The rights groups said it was unacceptable that the bill had been discussed in parliament on Monday in priority procedure without any preliminary consultations with civil organisations.