Hungarian Parliament Passes Big Exemptions From FOIA

2 March 2016

The Hungarian parliament on March 1 approved new disclosure exemptions for the state-owned postal service and for foundations established by the National Bank of Hungary, according to articles such as one in Hungary Today.

The post office, which also provides financial and insurance services, will no longer be required to divulge public data if it or its enterprises were to suffer “disproportionate damages” should the information provide an advantage to competitors.

The central bank will be exempt from providing information about foundations it has established. A court recently ruled that the bank must disclose how the foundations’ money spent, according to a Budapest Beacon article. The bank had argued that the foundations’ funds (about $900 million) were not public funds but rather central bank “profits.”

Both bills will apply to pending requests, according to a Budapest Beacon article about their very sudden introduction.

Attila Peterfalvi, head of the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, said in a letter to parliament’s legislative commission that the restrictions on central bank information were too broad and needed to be defined more precisely, the Associated Press reported.

Miklós Ligeti, Director of Legal Affairs for Transparency International Hungary, says the parliament “just adopted laws at breakneck speeds that will serve to totally eclipse the use of public funds,” as quoted in the Budapest Beacon story on the passage of the bills.

Tamas Bodoky, chief editor of the atlatszo.hu news website, was quoted as saying, “In recent years, it was clear that information about most suspected corruption cases could only be obtained with public information requests.” He added, “This is what they want to eliminate with these laws.”

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