Dutch Minister Proposes Cutbacks to Openness Law

13 May 2011

Dutch Home Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner May 5 suggested that the government will propose limitations on use of Holland’s Openness of Government Act, primarily to protect information about predecisional deliberations.

Donner did not provide specifics during a speech in which he also said that government officials are overburdened in responding to requests for information, according to a report by the Dutch news service NIS.

Many of the requests, he said, are “the result of the hail shots fired by journalists at the government in the hopes that one shot yields a scoop.”  Donner continued: “I do not consider this efficient use of time. I want to take action in these situations.”

He indicated that he will make a specific proposal soon and that it “will not affect press freedom.”

The NIS further reported:

Donner made a plea for privacy/secrecy of sensitive information. According to the minister, disclosure can work against reforms, because a commotion can arise if ideas are made known at an early stage. “Civil servants and ministers are rightly cautious with disclosure. One wrong remark by the Finance Minister can yield millions in damages nowadays.”

Donner also wants limits on the number of requests made and the number of documents requested, and to raise fees, according to Dutch FOI activist Roger Vleugels, summarizing, “In short he wants thresholds to decrease the volume.”

The leftwing Green (GroenLinks) opposition party requested a debate with Donner. “His concept of openness of government it like that of a closed lead door. Openness is the heart of a democratic power that has to be answerable,” according to GroenLinks MP Mariko Peters.

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