Opposition Builds in Denmark to FOI Amendment Proposal

17 April 2013

Opposition is growing in Parliament to the ruling coalition’s proposal to reduce public access to government documents, according to an April 16 article by Christian Wenande in The Copenhagen Post.

The intended amendments to the freedom of information act (offentlighedslov) had generated some criticism before, but appeared to stand a good chance of passage because of unified support from the major parties.

Around 20 members of government coalition party Radikale (R), however, have signed a petition against the proposal that has over 42,000 signatures. Camilla Fabricius, Socialdemokraterne’s (S) head on the Aarhus City Council, has also joined the ranks, Wenande reports. She urged Justice Minister Morten Bødskov, to “rethink the proposal.”

The most controversial a section that would impede access to preliminary and advisory ministerial documents created during the policy creation process. Supporters of gthe change say ministers need space for confidential exchanges.

“Opposition party Venstre (V), another offentlighedslov supporter, is also experiencing dissent within its ranks,’ the article says, going on to quote various published negative commentaries on the legislation.

The opposition parties Liberal Alliance (LA), Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and Enhedslisten (EL) are fighting the proposal.

Transparency International Danmark (TI-DK) has stated: “A prospective ratification of the new offentlighedslov could negatively affect our position in international rankings. If the law is ratified as stands, too much will be left in the dark and it is TI-DK’s fear that our strong integrity system will suffer. Furthermore, the law will weaken the media’s role as the fourth estate and watchdog, which would be a very unfortunate consequence.”

Study Finds Delays

A recent study found that 60 percent of requests took longer than the 10 day legal time frame for responses. The study, described in this blog post in Information DK by Ulrik Dahlin (in Danish) examined 936 requests.

The proposed law would shorten the time limit to seven days.

The petition was started by freelance editor Susanne Jespersen and philosopher Donald Højsted. There is a Facebook page  — No thanks to the new offentlighedslov.

An article on the bill (in Danish) was written by Tim Knudsen, a professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Among other things, he points out that the controversial element of the proposal is nearly identical to a proposal defeated in 2010, with opposition from Justice Minister Bødskov.

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