Denmark

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  • 4 May 2016

    Danish Pro-Access Majority Refrains From Using Power

    By Staffan Dahllöf The author is a freelance journalist. There is now a majority in the Danish parliament for amending a much-criticised law on access to public information adopted in 2013. Yet this majority is not likely to take use of its possible power, due to different political strategies. Three of the critical parties – the […]

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  • 23 March 2016

    Danish Lawmakers Considering Changing Blackout Law

    The Danish ombudsman has put on hold his analysis of a controversial provision limiting public access to ministerial communications, saying he does not wish to “short circuit” ongoing talks among parliamentarians about pulling back the so-called blackout law. The development is reported (in Danish) in various media articles: Feyns, Information and Politiken. Ombudsman Jørgen Steen […]

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News Archive

  • 31 December 2015

    Danish Officials Utilizing Controversial New Exemption

    The Danish government is actively using an exception created in 2013 to prevent the release of some documents that are part of the deliberative process, according to an article (in Danish) published in Information, written by Ulrik Dahlin and Sebastian Gjerding. The controversial Section 24 has been invoked 360 times by 17 ministries from the […]

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  • 22 October 2015

    Danish Ombudsman Wins Shorter Response Times

    The Danish ombudsman has successfully pressured the government to reduce the response times for information requests from as high as 27 weeks to eight weeks. The development was reported by Jorgen Skadhede in a Journalisten (in Danish) and in a statement from the Ombudsman. “It is a cornerstone of the new offentlighedslov that cases of access […]

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  • 30 December 2013

    Protestors in Denmark Carry Torches Over New FOI Law

    Amendments to the Danish freedom of information law will create more darkness, according to about 1,500 protestors who carried torches in a silent protest Dec. 19. The rally outside Christiansborg Dec. 29 came in advance of the Jan. 1 effective date of the amended law, according to a Copenhagen Post account. The main concern is that […]

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  • 6 June 2013

    Danish Parliament Adopts Controversial FOI Changes

    The Danish parliament May 4 approved controversial changes to its public information law that will reduce the availability of documents prepared during the development of new policies and legislation. The law will exempt disclosure of correspondence between ministries and the civil service if a minister is requesting advice. Ministers’ calendars also are made exempt. Passage […]

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  • 17 May 2013

    Protest Held in Denmark Over Controversial Amendments

    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 […]

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  • 24 April 2013

    Danish RTI Amendments Get Poor Review From Raters

    Denmark’s proposed changes to its right to information law are regressive and will not fix “major problems” in the current system, according to one of  two organizations that produce the major international rating of RTI laws. In particular, modifying certain exceptions would weaken the Danish law, according to an analysis by the Centre for Law […]

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  • 17 April 2013

    Opposition Builds in Denmark to FOI Amendment Proposal

    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 […]

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  • 15 February 2013

    Proposed Danish FOI Revisions Draw Criticisms

    By Staffan Dahllöf This article appeared in Wobbing Europe with headline “Yes-minister-law to hide political documents from the public.” Denmark’s reputation as a pro-transparent country is at stake, warns leading expert in media law Oluf Jørgensen: “This will draw international attention,” he says, pointing at a unique possibility to conceal reports from a minister to […]

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  • 8 February 2013

    Danish Government Seeks To Protect Decision Documents

    The Danish government Feb. 7 officially presented changes to the freedom of information law that were negotiated in late 2012 among the leading political parties. Particular controversial are  amendments that would reduce access to documents prepared by government officials about the creation of  government policy, according to a newspaper report. “The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), explained […]

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  • 12 October 2012

    Critics Score Proposals to Change Danish FOI Law

    Proposals to change the Danish freedom of information law seem designed to prevent access to materials about the development of policy, according to critics. The government and opposition parties negotiated to produce a package of modifications, but several other parties and interest groups are now raising objections. The most contentious provision would severely limit access […]

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  • 5 October 2012

    Parties Agree to Amend Danish Access Statute

    Denmark will be placing some new limits on access to information and also making some expansions as the result of a deal among the major political parties announced Oct. 3, according to media accounts. “The revision of the law, offentlighedsloven, has been ten years in the making, and was agreed upon on Wednesday between the […]

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  • 28 November 2011

    Three Countries Join OGP; Disclosure Policy Criticized

    Demark, Armenia and Paraguay have joined the Open Government Partnership, bringing OGP membership to 49. Their commitments come as the OGP prepares for a meeting in Brazil Dec. 7-8 and as comments arrive on the organization’s proposed disclosure policy. In other OGP-related developments: –          Tanzania’s efforts to prepare its action plan were faulted in several […]

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  • 19 June 2009

    12 European Countries Sign First International Convention on Access to Official Documents

    Advocates Urge 37 Remaining Council of Europe Members to Sign Tromsø, Norway — On June 18, 2009, 12 of 47 member-states of the Council of Europe signed the Convention on Access to Official Documents, making history as the first international binding legal instrument that recognizes a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities. […]

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  • 15 July 2002

    World’s Right to Know

    By Thomas Blanton Published in Foreign Policy, July/August 2002 During the last decade, 26 countries have enacted new legislation giving their citizens access to government information. Why? Because the concept of freedom of information is evolving from a moral indictment of secrecy to a tool for market regulation, more efficient government, and economic and technological […]

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links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Access to Public Administration Files Act. Act No. 572, 19 December 1985

 

Act on Processing of Personal Data (Act No. 429 of 31 May 2000)

 

Act from the Ministry of the Environment on Access to Information on the Environment. No. 292 of April 27, 1994

 

Act from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Amending Certain Environmental Acts. No. 447 of May 31, 2000.

 

GOVERNMENT

Folketingets Ombudsman

 

Datatilsynet (Data Protection Agency)

 

ORGANIZATIONS

The Openness Committee

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Click to view.

Text from the freedominfo.org Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The first limited act on access to information in Denmark was adopted in 1964.(1) In 1970, the Parliament approved the first comprehensive FOI law, the Act on Access of the Public to Documents in Administrative Files. The 1970 law was replaced in 1985 by the Access to Public Administration Files Act.(2)

It allows "any person" to demand documents in an administrative file. Authorities must respond as soon as possible to requests and if it takes longer than ten days they must inform the requestor of why the response is delayed and when an answer is expected.

The Act applies to "all activity exercised by the public administration" and to electricity, gas and heating plants. The Minister of Justice can extend coverage of the Act to companies and other institutions that are using public funds and making decisions on behalf of central or local governments. It does not apply to the Courts or legislators. Documents relating to criminal justice or the drafting of bills before they are introduced in the Folketing are exempt. Authorities receiving information of importance orally to a decision by an agency have an obligation to take note of the information.

The following documents are also exempted from disclosure: internal case material prior to a final decision; records, documents and minutes of the Council of State; correspondence between authorities and outside experts in developing laws or for use in court proceedings or deliberations on possible legal proceedings; material gathered for public statistics or scientific research; information related to the private life of an individual; and documents on technical plans or processes of material importance. Non-disclosure is also allowed if the documents contain essential information relating to the security of the state and defense of the realm, protection of foreign policy, law enforcement, taxation and public financial interests. Factual information of importance to the matter shall be released if it is included in internal case material or certain other exempted documents. Public authorities must release information if there is a danger to life, health, property or the environment.

An exemption for EU documents was removed in 1991. The law was also amended in 2000 to limit access to some information about government employees.

The Folketingets Ombudsman can review decisions and issue opinions recommending that documents be released or that the authority justify its decisions better.(3) The Ombudsman cannot order public authorities to act but its recommendations are generally followed.(4) It can also start its own investigations. The Ombudsman receives 200 to 300 complaints each year relating to access to records and decides against the public bodies in around fifteen percent of the cases. It takes three to five months for each decision. Decisions on access can also be appealed to the courts but this is rare.

The Government set up a Public Disclosure Commission in 2001 to review the Act and prepare a new law on access to information.(5) The Commission is considering the effects of new technologies, the role of other laws, the effect of restructuring on how government departments work, and the need for an independent oversight agency. It is being chaired by the Ombudsman and includes participation from government departments and users. It is expected to complete its review in 2007 and issue recommendations. A draft bill is not expected in the Parliament until 2008/09.

The Act on the re-use of public sector information to implement the requirements of the EU Directive on the re-use and commercial exploitation of public sector information (2003/98/EC) was adopted in June 2004.(6)

The Public Administration Act governs access to records where a person is party to an administrative decision.(7) It provides for greater access to records than under the Access Act.

The Act on Processing of Personal Data allows individuals to access their records held by public and private bodies.(8) It is enforced by the Datatilsynet (Data Protection Agency).(9)

The Act on the legal status of patients allows access for patients to their health records, unless consideration for the person requesting disclosure or for other private interests is of overriding importance.(10)

Denmark signed the Aarhus Convention in June 1998 and ratified and approved it in September 2000. The Access to Environmental Information Act implements the European Environmental Information Directive (90/313/EEC)(11) and was amended in 2000 to implement the Aarhus Convention.(12) A bill that would facilitate the forms of access is pending.

Under the Archives Act, most archives of public bodies are available after 30 years.(13) Archives containing personal information are kept closed for 80 years and those containing information relating national security and other reasons can be closed for varying times.

The Criminal Code prohibits the disclosure of classified information. An intelligence official, Major Frank Soeholm Grevil, was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment in November 2004 for revealing documents to journalists stating that the government had no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The two journalists were charged in April 2006 with "publishing information illegally obtained by a third party". The disclosure resulted in the resignation of Defense Minister Svend Aage Jensby in April 2004. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen ordered that the reports be declassified saying, "a very extraordinary situation has arisen which has given rise to doubts about the government's credibility." Grevil has appealed his conviction.

Under the Home Rule Act, Greenland has a separate set of laws generally based on Danish law.(14) The 1994 Public Administration Act and the 1994 Access to Public Administration Files Act were inspired by Danish legislation as well as practice.(15)The 1998 Act on Archives provides access by the public to archives.(16)

2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results - Denmark

 

NOTES

1. The Law on Party Access in Administration 13 May 1964. See Hallo, ed., Access to Environmental Information in Europe: Denmark (Kluwer Law 1996).

2. Access to Public Administration Files Act. Act No. 572, 19 December 1985. http://www.privacyinternational.org/countries/denmark/dk-foi-85.doc

3. Homepage: http://www.ombudsmanden.dk/english_en/

4. Council of Europe, Responses to the Questionnaire on National Practices in Terms of Access to Official Documents - Denmark, Sem-AC(2002)002 Bil, 18 November 2002, p.188. See also Summaries of annual reports for reviews of recent cases.

5. COE report, Ibid, p. 223.

6. Act on the re-use of public sector information, nr. 596, 24 June 2005.

7. Act 571 of 19 December 1995.

8. The Act on Processing of Personal Data (Act No. 429 of 31 May 2000).

9. Homepage: http://www.datatilsynet.no/

10. Act 482 of 1 July 1998.

11. Act from the Ministry of the Environment on Access to Information on the Environment. No. 292 of 27 April 1994.

12. Act from the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Amending Certain Environmental Acts. No. 447 of 31 May 2000.

13. See presentation of Hanne Rasmussen, International Council of Archives, SPP Rome, February 2002.

14. Act No. 577 of 29 November 1978.

15. Act No. 8 of 13 June 1994 on Public Administration Act, Act No. 9 of 13 June 1994 on Access to Public Administration Files with later amendments.

16. Act No. 22 of 30 October 1998.


 

 

Measuring Openness

Global Right to Information Rating
A country-by-country rating of laws by the Centre for Democracy and Law and Access Info.

Freedom House
The Freedom in the World report.

World Bank
Worldwide Governance Indicators

Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index
Measures perceptions of the degree of corruption.

Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Index.