April 30th, 2013

Parliament rushes through new limits on access to public data amid controversy over state tobacco shop tender

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.

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  • Aloof

    What other proof do Hungarians need that they are being “governed” by a bunch of lying corrupt criminals that constitutes Fidesz?
    This is a fucking scandal, an absolute outrage and Magyars just trudge aimlessly around with no clue they’re being taken to the cleaners by these thugs.
    This is most certainly the saddest state of affairs that Hungary has been in since ’89.
    So strap yourself in for the next 30 years of authoritarian revisionist oppression of gangster country bumpkin mafia criminals. You don’t think the outside world sees exactly what’s going on here?
    Smart and able Hungarians are already leaving and 3 more kids in our family will study outside of Hungary.

    • Pibroch

      Any doubts as to whether Fidesz is the true successor to the MSZMP should now be erased.

      • Democrat

        Successor? They make MSZMP look like amateurs. In just three years they have redefined democracy. This would be a great chance for Ader to resign rather than signing this shameful piece of legislation.

    • russ

      “…and Magyars just trudge aimlessly around with no clue they’re being taken to the cleaners…”

      The problem is they DO KNOW – and they accept it. As we all know, Hungarians like to be shit on. We all know that this is the their mentality. They have no one to blame but themselves!

      • Curious George

        I don’t believe they know. They’re always looking for a külföldi bogeyman to blame, and often, they don’t realize when the bogeyman is amongst them.

        • Russ

          I was just speaking with some Hungarian friends last night. They are FIDESZ supporters and they see what is going on. But DESPITE ALL, they will still vote for them again in the next election – even after the one guy lost his job because of FIDESZ. Go figure! So, I think Hungarians do know what is taking place and would gladly follow and walk over the edge of a cliff if Orban was playing a flute/pipe. I can only say that this is a “unique” country.

  • MagyarViking

    Yes, as I predicted Fidesz would prevent us, who gave in bids for the tobacco licenses the chance to verify and hence legally challenge the ruling, as any normal tender-process

    Hungary under Fidesz is more and more looking like a Mafia State

    • wolfi

      Thanks, Viking, for those pictures of leto – or is it young “Liberal” Orbán ?

      Back to the real world:
      Can’t the EU or the European courts do something against this blatant misuse of parliamentary power ?

      • MagyarViking

        The problem is that the Prosecutors are not indipendent in Hungary, so we will not have a Prosecutor starting an investigation into something that he/she thinks is wrong in Hungary, like the obvious corruption around these tobacco-license

        And as the State Prosecutor, the highest guy, is a starch pro-Fidesz, who always (he was also apponted in 2000 for 6 years) put Fidesz’ interests first (he deliberately stopped investigations against the 1st Fidesz Administration 98-02, after Fidesz lost the elections 02), so we not get any action from there

        If not the Hungarian Constitutional Court does not strike down any of these laws, including the process on how the tobacco-licenses were awarded, then only the European Court of Justice (ECJ) can in maybe 2-5 years make a verdict, if people who like me cannot get an appeal through the legal system in Hungary for this flawed tender

        It is a Good Question how many who will actually dare to take Fidesz to Court on this obvious corruption-case, then we all know what the response will be from Fidesz – the full weight of local authorities from the tax office to the electricity supplier will be thrown at you to find out if you in any way are cheating and harass you in the media

        This is nothing new, this is what the Tax Office have done for many years when you ask back the VAT, you get a tax checking in return. Now the EU has stated that this praxis is illegal, but reality is another thing…and now the can use the TEK (anti-terror police) for digging up dirt also

        • wolfi

          Yes, that plethora of new laws that must feel like an avalanche to business owners …

          In a certain way it’s horribly funny:

          Minister: We have a small problem here …

          Orbán: No problem, just have someone write a new law …

          Two days later the problem is fixed!

          I’m really happy that as pensioners we don’t have to worry too much …

  • stanlee98

    A bloody revolution would be nice. Wipe out the trash from politics.

  • MagyarViking

    AFP’s take on this:

    Below a happy receiver of the maximum 5 Tobacco-licenses in her village and a life-long Kadar and Fidesz supporter

  • MagyarViking

    So, maybe this trick will not work for Fidesz then the President of the National Authority for Data Protection and Information stated that

    * not only the winner but the losing proposals is open to the public, so that the National Tobacco Sales Nonprofit Zrt is required to issue them if someone asks for it

    Meaning I will request the evaluation of our own bids and all other bids, both losing and winning in the 4 districts we stood in, to investigate if there is legal ground to press charges for corruption, or formal errors in the processing of the tenders

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