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Polish government attempts to limit access to public information

To the surprise of all actors involved in the consultation process, Polish government added a significant limitation to the present provisions included in the Act on Access to Public Information, by stating in the new Article 5a, that the right to public information concerning:

1) positions, opinion, statement or analysis prepared by or on behalf of the Polish Republic, the State Treasury or local authority for the purposes of:

a) making the decision or making a declaration of will in the management of the estate of the Treasury or local government units, including the commercialization and privatization of the property,

b) the proceedings before the courts, tribunals and other adjudicating authorities, with the participation of Polish Republic, the State Treasury or local government units,

2) negotiating instructions in the meaning of the Act of 14 April 2000 on international agreements, 

Is limited to the time necessary to make a final decision, make a declaration of will in the process of managing the property, the final conclusion of the proceedings or to conclude an international agreement, on the basis of the protection of public order, security or important economic interests of the state.

2. The right of access to public information in the field referred to in paragraph 1, is also subject to restriction during the administrative procedure or administrative litigation of public information.

In the guidelines for implementing the bill which were accepted by the government on 17th of May 2011 it was written, that “At the outset it should be noted that the purpose of the changes in Act on Access to Public Information is not to reform the current rules of access to information and its limitations, as well as the mode of information sharing. The proposed amendment is only intended to supplement these rules by adding a new (fifth) mode of access to information and to fill the existing gap in the designation of the principles of re-use of public information. It is about the information on which provisions already in force decided by whether it is publicly available or limit the availability or accessibility.

A month later without any public consultations the same government has accepted the project which includes the serious change in current rules of access to information and its limitations. The project is urgent due to the duty of implementing EC’s re-use directive. It will be delivered to parliament (Sejm) the week between July 11 and 15 and – as we can predict – will not be the subject of discussions but voting. Polish NGO’s including the Association of Leaders of Local Civic Groups running the Non-Governmental Center on Access to Public Information are pointing out that actions taken by the government are in the opposition to what it was promised and are severe danger to Freedom of Information. If the provision is to be implemented, citizens will have no access to crucial data on the plans of administrative sector in the course of public funds management and opinions on foreign policy.



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