Hungary

What's New

  • 2 March 2016

    Hungarian Parliament Passes Big Exemptions From FOIA

    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 […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 15 February 2016

    Hungarian Lawmaker Seeks to Exempt Postal Service

    A Hungarian parliamentarian from the ruling party has submitted a bill that would exempt the Hungarian Postal Service (Magyar Posta) from the provisions of the freedom of information act. Fidesz MP Szilárd Németh offered the legislation, according to a report in The Budapest Beacon. The English-language paper quotes Miklós Ligeti, Director of Legal Affairs for Transparency International Hungary, pointing […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!

News Archive

  • 2 July 2015

    Hungary Proposes Higher Fees, Longer Response Times

    The Hungarian government has proposed a bill (in Hungarian) to hike fees for freedom of information requests and to double the length of the response period from 15 to 30 days. The new rules also would permit refusal of requests on the grounds that documents are “preparatory” or the copyright of third persons. Repeat requests could […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 3 July 2013

    Hungarian NGOs Call FOI Changes as Unconstitutional

    Groups in Hungary are challenging the constitutionality of recent amendments to the freedom of information law. The modified law has the potential to curtail fundamental rights, according to a July 2 statement and a letter to Hungary’s president, Janos Ader (available here in Hungarian), sent by Transparency International (TI) Hungary, TASZ and K-Monitor. The new […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 14 June 2013

    Altered Hungarian Bill Still Draws Objections

    The Hungarian parliament June 11 made slight modifications to previously rejected legislation revising the freedom of information law, but critics still are raising objections. In particular, the amendment will allow public agencies too much latitude in to reject FOI claims deemed excessive, said Fanny Hidvégi, FOI and data protection director for the Hungarian Civil Liberties […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 10 May 2013

    Hungarian President Sends FOI Bill Back to Parliament

    Hungarian President Janos Áder has told Parliament to reconsider a controversial law diminishing the access to information law, though some critics would have preferred that he had referred it to the constitutional court for review. Parliament hastily approved a bill April 30 sponsored by the ruling Fidesz party, generated considerable objection from pro-transparency groups. (See […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 3 May 2013

    Hungary Restricts FOI Law; OGP Membership Questioned

    The Hungarian Parliament has adopted restrictive amendments to its freedom of information law that are being criticized by pro-transparency activists. The main change would allow the government to reject “excessive” requests for information, a standard critics called too vague. In addition, the changes appear to make the FOI law not applicable when disclosure policies are included […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 3 August 2012

    Hungary to Join OGP; Member Number 57

    Hungary has notified the Open Government Partnership that it will join the multilateral organization, becoming its 57th member. Like other members, Hungary will prepare a national action plan, and an OGP spokesperson said it would be done by the end of the year. A working group of civil society organizations, including K-Monitor Watchdog for Public […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 25 June 2012

    OGP Review: New Study, Continued Activism

    With the submission of most national action plans in the past and their review in the future, recent news about the Open Government Partnership lately has centered on the first study of the action plans and efforts to persuade countries to join or to live up to OGP ideals. Activists in Ireland and Hungary are seeking […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 9 April 2012

    Hungarian Groups Criticize Government Proposals

    Hungarian groups are criticizing draft legislation they say would undermine access to information by setting charges for the reuse of public information. A bill of submitted to the Hungarian Parliament by the government of the country “makes national FOI legislation highly unpredictable,” according to a statement by HCLU and K-Monitor, major Hungarian NGOs working for […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 16 September 2011

    New Law on Freedom of Information in Hungary

    By Tivadar Hüttl Director of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Program, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union The Hungarian Parliament in June adopted new law on data protection and freedom of information (Act CXII. on Informational Self-determination and Freedom of Information). The act will entry in force from 1st of January 2012, and will replace the […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 1 July 2011

    FOI Proposals in Hungary Would Weaken Law

    A bill before the Hungarian Parliament would replace the independent Data Protection and Freedom of Information Commissioner with a less independent  administrative authority. “This change will seriously weaken the right to access to information in Hungary,” according to Hutti Tivadar, Head of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Program, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. The legislation which was […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 29 April 2011

    Changes in Hungary Seen Undercutting FOI Rights

    Hungary has replaced the independent Data Protection and Freedom of Information Commissioner with an administrative authority, seriously weakening the right to access information, according to Human rights and media freedom groups. The changes result the new Hungarian constitution, recently signed by Hungary’s president Pál Schmitt.  “There is still a lack of clarity about the proposed […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 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. […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 14 April 2009

    World Bank Releases Extremely Useful Reports on Access to Information Implementation

    Over the past few months, the World Bank has recently published a series of extremely useful reports by experts on access to information laws. Using comparative case studies, together these reports provide an overview of the whole life cycle of access to information (ATI) legislation, from adoption to implementation and enforcement. One report examines the role of civil society groups in the formulation and adoption of access to information laws in Bulgaria, India, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Another examines the institutional and logistical nuts-and-bolts of implementation, using Mexico as a case study, while the third report looks at models of enforcement in several countries: South Africa, Mexico, Scotland, India, and Hungary.

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 14 April 2009

    European Court of Human Rights: Right to Information Essential to Free Expression

    Társaság a Szabadságjogokért v. Hungary a Landmark Decision in the Right to Know Strasbourg, France — In a landmark decision today, the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe found in favor of Társaság a Szabadságjogokért, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, in its complaint against the Hungarian government over a submission to the Hungarian […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 22 September 2006

    Hungarian Government Releases NATO Secrecy Policy Document

    UPDATE – 11 OCTOBER 2006 In response to a subsequent HCLU request, the Hungarian National Security Superintendence recently released an additional, previously secret NATO document entitled “Directive on the Security of Information,” dated 2005. The directive, enacted in support of NATO Security Policy C-M(2002)49, contains mandatory provisions related to classification, marking and handling of sensitive information, […]

    Be Sociable, Share!

links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Constitution of the Republic of Hungary

 

Act LXIII OF 1992 on the Protection of Personal Data and the Publicity of Data of Public Interest

 

Act LXV of 1995 on State and Official Secrets

 

Act XXIII of 1994 on the Screening of Holders of Some Important Positions, Holders of Positions of Public Trust and Opinion-Leading Public Figures, and on the Office of History

 

Act LXVI of 1995 on Public Records, Public Archives, and the Protection of Private Archives

 

Act XC of 2005 on the Freedom of Information by Electronic Means

 

2003. Act XXIV on the amendment to certain acts on the use of public moneys and on disclosure, transparency and increased control in regard to the use of public property

 

Act IV of 1978 on the Criminal Code Title II (Criminal sanctions for violations of information rights)

 

An amendment effective April 1, 2010,  changed the powers of the commissioner in overseeing classification of information. In Hungarian.

 

GOVERNMENT

Parliamentary Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information

 

Ministry of Informatics and Communications

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

 

Hungarian Helsinki 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

Article 61 (1) of the Constitution states:

In the Republic of Hungary, everyone has the right to the freely express his opinion, and furthermore to access and distribute information of public interest.(1)

The Constitutional Court ruled in 1992 that freedom of information is a fundamental right essential for citizen oversight.(2) In 1994, the Court struck down the law on state secrets, ruling that it was too restrictive and infringed on freedom of information.(3)

Act No. LXIII of 1992 on the Protection of Personal Data and Disclosure of Data of Public Interest is a combined Data Protection and Freedom of Information Act.(4) The Act guarantees that all persons should have access to information of public interest which is broadly defined as any information being processed by government authorities except for personal information. Requests can be written, oral or electronic. Agencies must respond in 15 days to requests.

State or official secrets and information related to national defense, national security, criminal investigations, monetary and currency policy, international relations and judicial procedure can be restricted if specifically required by law. Internal documents are generally not available for 10 years.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information oversees the 1992 Act.(5) Besides acting as an ombudsman for both data protection and freedom of information, the Commissioner's tasks include: maintaining the Data Protection Register and providing opinions on data protection and information access-related draft legislation as well as each category of official secrets. In 2004, there was a total of 169 submissions relating to access to information, a 20 percent increase over 2003.(6) 71 of those were complaints and 86 were requests for consultations, 5 on official secrets and 7 ex officio investigations. 26 percent were from individuals. 16 percent from journalists and 31 percent were from public bodies asking for advice.

Those denied access can appeal to the courts.

There have been a number of significant amendments to the law in the last several years. In April 2003, the so-called "Glass Pockets Act" modified 19 different laws including the FOI to facilitate the transparency of the use of public funds by limiting business secrets, expanding disclosure requirements and requiring budget organizations to continually post updated financial information.(7) Act XIX of 2005 expanded the definition of public interest data, applied the law to judicial records, reduced the time for access to internal documents from 20 years down to ten, allowed oral and electronic requests, allowed the requestor to set the form of access, and expanded the power of the commissioner to investigate and issue recommendations and opinions.

Act XC of 2005 on the Freedom of Information by Electronic Means imposes E-FOI requirements for the law.(8) It requires a number of public bodies to create home pages and sets out in an annex an extensive list of information that needs to be released. The Minister of Informatics and Communications must create a central list of databases and registries and a uniform public data search engine. Ministries must also publish information about draft legislation and ministerial decrees and related documents. Many court decisions must also be published. The cases should be anonymised.

The Parliamentary Commissioner in his 2004 report noted a number of continuing problems including access to court records and the cost of disclosures on public bodies. Regulatory bodies who refused to reveal their activities were also a problem.

The Secrecy Act of 1995 sets rules on the classification of information.(9) It was amended in 1999 to incorporate NATO rules and substantially revised by Act LIII of 2003. The Parliamentary Commissioner is entitled to change the classification of state and official secrets. The Commissioner conducted an investigation and found that most bodies that used the act were properly classifying information but also reported that the Government Control Office (KEHI) has resisted following the orders of the Commissioner on implementing the lists of secrets. The Parliament in 2006 began a review of the Act to revise it to make it conform with EU and NATO rules. The bill was withdrawn following public criticism.(10)

Article 221 of the 1978 Criminal Code allows for imprisonment of up to five years for breaching state secrets. Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and a former Hungarian dissident, criticized the government in November 2004 for using the law against a journalist who quoted from a police report on a MP under investigation. The Commissioner ruled that the report was not be eligible to be secret and was declassified by the police.(11)

Individuals can have access to their own files created by the communist-era secret police under the 2003 Act on the Disclosure of the Secret Service Activities of the Communist Regime and on the Establishment of the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security which replaced 1994 Screening Act.(12) The Historical Archive of the Hungarian State Security controls the files.(13) The law was amended to allow for greater access following revelations that Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy once worked for the communist-era intelligence service.(14) The law makes information about high ranking public officials public data and allows victims to see the records of the people who spied on them. However, the Commissioner was critical of the new law as limiting some access rights and not defining public figures properly.(15) The government announced in December 2004 that it planned to fully open the files.(16)

Under the Act on Public Records, Public Archives, and the Protection of Private Archives, public authorities must transfer files within 15 years.(17) Any individual can access records over 30 years old. Archives can be closed for longer in the interest of privacy, state secrets, official secrets and confidential business data.

Hungary signed the Aarhus Convention in December 1998 and ratified it in July 2001. The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers was signed in May 2003 and Hungary joined the European Pollutant Emission Register in March 2004. Access to environmental information is through the 1992 FOI/DP Act. In July 2005, the European Commission announced that it was taking legal action against Hungary and six other countries for failing to implement the 2003 EU Directive on access to environmental information.(18)

The Criminal Code punishes the failure to comply with obligations to provide public information, render it inaccessible, or the publishing of false or untrue information.(19)

2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results - Hungary

NOTES

Constitution of the Republic of Hungary, http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/law/hu00000_.html

Decision 32/1992.(VI.29.) ABH

Decision 34/1994 (VI.24) AB

Act LXIII OF 1992 on the Protection of Personal Data and the Publicity of Data of Public Interest, http://abiweb.obh.hu/dpc/legislation/1992_LXIIIa.htm

Web Site: http://www.obh.hu/

Annual Report of the Data Protection and FOI Ombudsman for 2004.

Act XXIV of 2003 Amending Certain Acts on the Use of Public Funds, the Public Disclosure, Transparency and Increased Control of the Uses of Public Property (The "Glass Pockets Act"). http://www.freedominfo.org/documents/hu_trans_2005tvy90.doc

Act XC of 2005 on the Freedom of Information by Electronic Means.

Act LXV of 1995 on State and Official Secrets.

See HCLU, The transparency of the State is in jeopardy! The draft Secrecy Act must be revoked!, 19 January 2006. http://www.tasz.hu/index.php?op=contentlist2&catalog_id=2423

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Representative on Freedom of the Media, OSCE media watchdog criticises Hungary over arbitrary harassment of journalist, 16 November 2004.

Act III of 2003 on the Disclosure of the Secret Service Activities of the Past Regime and the Historic Archive of the National Security Services, 14 January 2003. http://www.th.hu/html/en/acts/ABTL_4_2003_evi_III_tv_e.pdf. Act XXIII of 1994 on the Screening of Holders of Some Important Positions, Holders of Positions of Public Trust and Opinion-Leading Public Figures, and on the Office of History.

Homepage: http://www.th.hu/index_e_start.html

For more information on the controversy, see RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 6, No. 117, Part II, 24 June 2002.

Recommendation of the Data Protection Commissioner summarizing the results of the investigation concerning the enforcement of freedom of information and informational self-determination pursuant to Act III of 2003 on the Disclosure of the Secret Service Activities of the Past Regime and the Historic Archive of the National Security Services, 15 December 2003.

Hungary to Open Spy Files - More communist-era spies may be revealed when the files are opened, DW, 9 December 2004.

Act LXVI of 1995 on Public Records, Public Archives, and the Protection of Private Archives. http://www.th.hu/html/en/acts/Act_LXVI_of_1995.doc

European Commission, Public access to environmental information: Commission takes legal action against seven Member States, 11 July 2005.

Act IV of 1978 on the Criminal Code. http://abiweb.obh.hu/dpc/legislation/1978_IV_177a.htm

 

 

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.