Poland

What's New

  • 20 June 2014

    Polish FOI Laws, Practices Weak, Evaluation Finds

    Poland’s access to information regime is critically evaluated in a report just published in English. “Public institutions too often use a restricted interpretation of the existing regulations,” according to “Waiting for open government.” It was prepared in December of 2013 by the Polish Open Government Coalition as part of an effort to encourage Poland to […]

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  • 23 April 2012

    FOI Amendments in Poland Illegally Passed, Court Says

    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal April 18 has annulled amendments to the freedom of information law passed in 2011. The court ruled that the rules of the legislation process under which the changes were approved violated the Polish Constitution. Polish transparency activists had opposed the changes which were largely aimed at limited access to materials related to the […]

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News Archive

  • 22 September 2011

    Polish Legislation Called Too Broad; Signing Opposed

    Polish transparency activists are asking the country’s president not to sign recently passed amendments to the freedom of information law. Parliament Sept. 16 approved a variety of changes, including an amendment added by the upper chamber which critics consider too broad. The specific objectionable provision (translated by a Polish FOI activist) states: 1a. The right […]

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  • 21 July 2011

    Poland Proposes New Restrictions on Documents

    The Polish government has proposed new restrictions on access to documents. The amendments would prevent the disclosure of documents used in the preparation of official positions on a variety of defined matters. The restriction would apply to materials regarding the commercialization or privatization of property, court proceedings and international negotiations. Later release of the documents […]

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  • 7 July 2011

    Polish Government Proposes Data Reuse Legislation

    The Polish government has proposed legislation that would make public information available for re-use,  according to a press release by the public interest group Centrum Cyfrowe. The draft bill will now be sent to Parliament. Under the bill, all public information accessible online or made available pursuant through individiual requests will be available for re-use free […]

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  • 22 March 2006

    EBRD Seeks Comment on Draft of New Disclosure Policy

    At the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the board recently released a proposal to modify its disclosure policies, with comments due April 14. The EBRD included in its announcement a number of new provisions. First, two new categories of information would be disclosed: General Institutional Information and Accountability and Governance. Second, the EBRD […]

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links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Constitution of Poland

 

Law on Access to Public Information. 6 September 2001 Journal of Laws No 112, item 1198.

 

The Classified Information Protection Act of 22 January 1999

 

The Act of 9 November 2000 on Access to Information on the Environment and Its Protection and on Environmental Impact Assessments

 

Act of August 29, 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data.

 

GOVERNMENT

Public Information Bulletin (BIP)

 

National Remembrance Institute (IPN)

 

Data Protection Commission

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Transparency International Poland

 

The Non-Governmental Centre on Access to Public Information (English) (Polish)

 

OTHER RESOURCES

EUROPA, eGovernment Factsheet - Poland (November 2005)

 

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 of the Constitution provides for the right to information and mandates that Parliament enact a law setting out this right.(1)

(1) A citizen shall have the right to obtain information on the activities of organs of public authority as well as persons discharging public functions. Such right shall also include receipt of information on the activities of self-governing economic or professional organs and other persons or organizational units relating to the field in which they perform the duties of public authorities and manage communal assets or property of the State Treasury. (2) The right to obtain information shall ensure access to documents and entry to sittings of collective organs of public authority formed by universal elections, with the opportunity to make sound and visual recordings. (3) Limitations upon the rights referred to in Paragraphs (1) and (2), may be imposed by statute solely to protect freedoms and rights of other persons and economic subjects, public order, security or important economic interests of the State.

The Law on Access to Public Information was approved in September 2001 and went into effect in January 2002.(2)

The Act allows anyone to demand access to public information, public data and public assets held by public bodies, private bodies that exercise public tasks, trade unions and political parties. The requests can be oral or written. The bodies must respond within 14 days.

The law sets out categories of public information including internal and foreign policy, information relating to the structure of legal entities, operational activities of public organizations, public data such as official documents and positions, and public assets. There are exemptions for state secrets and confidential information as protected by a law, personal privacy and business secrets.

Appeals of denials of access are made under the Code of Administrative Procedure initially internally and then to a court. The Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (Ombudsman) has also been active in promoting the law as a means for improving legal structures.(3) The Ombudsman called for greater transparency in his 2004 report, stating that it should be given priority over the privacy of public officials.

The real heart of the Act is the duties placed on public bodies to publish information about their policies, draft legislation, legal organization, principles of operation, contents of administrative acts and decisions, and public assets. The law requires that each create a Public Information Bulletin to allow access to information via computer networks.(4) Collecting public authorities are required to hold open meetings and create minutes or recordings of the meetings. Poland enacted the Classified Information Protection Act in January 1999 as a condition for entering NATO.(5) The Act covers classified information or information collected by government agencies the disclosure of which "might damage interests of the state, public interests, or lawfully protected interests of citizens or of an organization." The Act creates two categories - state secrets and public service secrets. State secrets can be designated as Top Secret or Secret, public service secrets can be designated as confidential or restricted. Most state secrets shall be classified for fifty years while some information relating to spies and informants and information from other states can be classified for an unlimited time. Confidential information is classified for five years while restricted can be classified for two years. A student from Warsaw Technical University was arrested in April 2004 after he discovered that 12 used hard drives that he had bought contained secret information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and sold the drives to newspaper NIE, which published information on the foreign minister and excerpts of meetings.(6) In January 2006, Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski announced that the government was going to declassify all remaining files of the Warsaw Pact.(7)

A law creating a National Remembrance Institute (IPN) to allow victims of the communist-era secret police access to records was approved by Parliament in October 1998.(8) President Aleksander Kwasniewski vetoed the law, saying that it should allow all Poles, not just the victims, to access the records but his veto was overridden and he later signed the law.(9) The IPN took control of all archives of the communist-era security service and those of courts, prosecutors' offices, the former Communist Party and other institutions. Since February 2001, Polish citizens have been allowed to see their personal files compiled by communist authorities before 1989.(10) Around 14,000 people have made inquiries. In February 2005, journalist Bronislaw Wildstein published a list of 240,000 names of agents, informers, and victims (but not identifying who belongs in which category) from the IPN on the Internet.(11) The list reportedly has became the most popular search on the Polish Internet.

The Screening Act, which allows a special commission to examine the records of government officials who might have collaborated with the secret police, was approved in June 1997, but its implementation was delayed until November 1998, when the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the Act was constitutional except for two provisions. There have been some allegations that the information is used politically.(12)

Poland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information in June 1998 and ratified it in February 2002. The Law on the Protection of the Environment allows for access to information.(13)

Under the Act on Protection of Personal Data, individuals can obtain and correct records that contain personal information about themselves from both public and private bodies.(14) It is enforced by the Bureau of the Inspector General for the Protection of Personal Data.(15)

2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results - Poland

 

NOTES

Constitution of Poland, http://www.uni-wuerzburg.de/law/pl00000_.html

Law on Access to Public Information. Journal of Laws No 112, item 1198. 6 September 2001.

Homepage: http://www.brpo.gov.pl/index.php?e=1&poz=430

Main government BIP page: http://www.bip.gov.pl/

The Classified Information Protection Act of 22 January 1999.

MSZ Secrets on the Front Page, The Warsaw Voice, 14 April 2004.

AFP, Poland To Declassify Warsaw Pact Files: Defense Minister, 3 January 2006.

Homepage: http://www.ipn.gov.pl/index_eng.html

"Veto Overridden, President Signs Secret Files Bill," Polish News Bulletin, 21 December 1998.

"Airing Dirty Laundry", The Warsaw Voice, 11 February 2001 No. 6 (642).

See http://www.listawildsteina.com/indexint.html

RFE/RL Newsline Vol. 4, No. 146, Part II, 1 August 2000.

Act of 27 April 2001 Environmental Protection Law. See Access to Environmental Handbook. http://www.mos.gov.pl/aarhus/dokumenty/Access-to-envir-info.pdf

Act of 29 August 1997 on the Protection of Personal Data. Journal of Laws of 29 October 1997, No. 133, item 883 with later amendments. http://www.giodo.gov.pl/plik/id_p/61/j/en/

Homepage: http://www.giodo.gov.pl/English/english.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.