June 4th, 2013

Parliamentary committee tables changes in line with president’s recommendations on access to public data law

Parliament’s constitutional committee on Monday submitted law amendments prior to a final vote to incorporate recommendations by the republic’s president.

A law on information regulating access to data of public interest as well as one easing the rules governing agriculture chamber officials are among amended laws the president sent back to parliament in May.

President Janos Ader returned the information law, saying powers afforded to a public body set up to determine what content may be examined by authorities under a mandatory data provision clause were too broad. Moreover, the law was wrong to state that persons subjected to procedures would lose their right to seek remedy, he said. The amendment now tabled seeks to rectify this situation.

Parliament on April 30 approved in priority procedure a bill initiated by the ruling Fidesz party to put data related to public organisations under the purview of the State Audit Office and the Government Control Office. Fidesz said the law sought to prevent “abuse of data requests” that hinder the operation of the data-handling organisations. Critics, however, said the law could potentially limit access to data of public interest.

Transparency International Hungary earlier welcomed Ader’s move to send the information law back, which, in agreement with other civil groups, it considered as a “brutal attack on the freedom of information”.

The civil groups, including the Civil Liberties Union and portal atlatszo.hu argued that the law, in its original form, would have made it much more difficult for citizens to access public data. In certain cases, they insisted, the authorities could have denied access to those data on an arbitrary basis.

Ader also returned to parliament rules on conflict of interest affecting agricultural chamber officials approved on April 29, stipulating that the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development would have the right to appoint a chairman or deputy chairman from among the heads of its regional organisations.

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