Protest Held in Denmark Over Controversial Amendments

17 May 2013

Several thousand persons demonstrated in Christiansborg, Denmark, against the proposed freedom of information law amendments, and two international journalism groups voiced their opposition.

“The crowd was treated to rousing speeches and several musical performances in yesterday’s warm afternoon sun,” according to a Copenhagen Post article. One speaker was Anders Højsted, a Radikale board member from the Nørrebro district in Copenhagen, who launching the “Nej tak til den nye offentlighedslov” on Facebook. A protest petition now has more than 80,000 signatures.

The bill is pending in Parliament, sources told, still with sufficient support to pass. (See previous reports.) The most contentious proposals, sections 24 and 27, would provide more protection for documents prepared in connection with the drafting of policies and laws.

In another development, the International Press Institute and the European Federation of Journalists criticized the proposal. The amendments are supported by the major political parties, with slight internal dissent, and opposed by an unusual alliance of three disparate opposition parties.

The Vienna-based  IPI warned that other countries “would cynically use Denmark’s example to suppress democracy in their own countries”

“Shielding government officials and civil servants from the light of public scrutiny will, at best, increase voter apathy,” wrote IPI’s executive director, Alison Bethel McKenzie. “At worst, it will lead to public policy that harms Denmark’s citizens. Such a negative move could also provide cover for other world leaders who would cynically use Denmark’s example to suppress democracy in their own countries.” 

“The EFJ calls on the Danish government to recognise that transparency is needed to develop democracy and withdraw the sections of the law that reclassify access to ministerial documents,” according to a resolution adopted at a EFJ conference in Belgium.

Justice Minister Morten Bødskov is quoted as saying “that IPI’s claim that the offentlighedslov proposal in Denmark will trigger an oppressive domino effect around the world seems greatly exaggerated.”

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