Hungary: government closing down freedom of information

Issued by Transparency International Hungary



Budapest, 08 May 2013 - Changes to Hungary’s freedom of information laws adopted last week discredit all previous government promises to stop corruption, Hungarian NGOs said today.

Transparency International Hungary, public spending watchdog K-Monitor, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and investigative reporting website atlatszo.hu  today said they would quit the anti-corruption working group coordinated by the Ministry of Justice in protest the new limits on transparency.

On 30 of April 2013, a special sitting of the Hungarian Parliament adopted an amendment limiting the scope of Hungary’s Freedom of Information Act. Extraordinarily, the amendment was passed within less than 48 hours of being proposed by MPs. It will be published in a couple of days and will enter into force on the day following the day of its publication.

This amendment is the first step down a slippery slope, at the bottom of which is full state control of public information. It heralds a dark age for democratic governance in Hungary. The law will now allow government officials to get away with bias in their actions and could see corruption go unseen and unpunished in future,” said Miklós Ligeti, Legal Director at Transparency International Hungary.  

The amendment introduces major limits to citizens’ right to access public information by saying only state bodies may hold enough data to carry out large audits.

It also obliges citizens to justify a legitimate interest of requests for information on, for example, court cases, decisions of public bodies, or personal information of public officials which until now was in the public domain.

The fact that what constitutes a “large audit” or “legitimate interest” is not defined by the amendment gives massive leeway to public bodies to reject requests to disclose information as “abusive”.  

This runs counter to the principle that every citizen has the right to be informed about the spending of public money, a pivotal value in any democracy the amendment voted on in the Parliament calls into question, said Transparency International Hungary, K-Monitor watchdog for public funds, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and atlatszo.hu investigative portal. Passing an amendment reshaping the sphere of freedom of information in only two days is also unacceptable, they said.

Notably, the amendment was proposed as civil society groups pressed for access to the bids in a tender for tobacco retail licenses, which reportedly went to government party loyalists. This law will allow public decision makers to reject such requests.

Under the new, government-friendly understanding of freedom of information, government offices, municipalities and other users of public money would be able to keep the way they allocate public funds secret. In future, it could also exclude key aspects of public life from transparency rules, such as asset declarations or conflict of interest issues of public officials.

This law contradicts the fundamental ethical norms in a democracy and places measures endeavored by the government as included in its anti-graft action plan into doubt, the four NGOs warned, explaining they are withdrawing from the government’s anti-corruption working group because, although they are still devoted to make Hungary a better society free of corruption, they will not lend their reputation to the legal chicanery of the Hungarian government in the anti-corruption arena.

 

 


For any press enquiries please contact

Miklós Ligeti
T: +36 70 409 72 73
E: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Latest

Support Transparency International

The terrible consequences of police corruption in South Africa

What do we do when those mandated to protect us are serving other interests than public safety and security? In South Africa, police corruption leaves the public exposed to high rates of crime, and causes distrust of the police service while allowing crime to flourish.

Why do DRC citizens report such high levels of corruption?

People's experiences with corruption in the DRC are far worse than in most other African countries. Why is corruption so prevalent in the DRC, why is bribery so commonplace and why do two thirds of citizens feel powerless?

Is Mauritius at a tipping point in the fight against corruption?

According to the latest GCB for Africa, very few Mauritians who accessed public services, like health care and education, had to pay a bribe for those services. But given recent scandals, citizens still see certain groups and institutions as corrupt.

Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Supervisory and justice systems should be transparent and accountable so that the public can assess their performance.

Resilient institutions

Reducing corruption is an important component of the sustainable development agenda, and one that all state parties have an obligation to address. Although corruption is often thought of as a ‘third-world problem’, institutions in the Global North play an important role in the corruption cycle, and are therefore an essential part of the solutions.

In whose interest? Political integrity and corruption in Africa

What accounts for the wide disparity in peoples’ perceptions of the integrity of elected representatives in different countries? In this piece, we will to look at various forms of political corruption, how they manifest in African countries and what can be done to promote political integrity.

Cidadãos opinam sobre a corrupção em África

A décima edição do Barómetro Global de Corrupção (GCB) – África revela que embora a maioria das pessoas na África acreditem que os níveis de corrupção aumentaram no seu país, elas também se sentem otimistas, pois acreditam que os cidadãos podem fazer a diferença no combate à corrupção.

Les citoyens africains expriment leur opinion sur la corruption

La 10e édition du Baromètre mondial de la corruption – Afrique révèle que la plupart des Africains pensent que la corruption a augmenté dans leur pays, mais aussi que la majorité d’entre eux s’estiment capables, en tant que citoyens, de changer la donne dans la lutte contre la corruption.

Global Corruption Barometer - Africa 2019

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa reveals that more than half of all citizens surveyed in 35 African countries think corruption is getting worse in their country. 59 per cent of people think their government is doing badly at tackling corruption.

Citizens speak out about corruption in Africa

The Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – Africa, reveals that while most people in Africa feel corruption increased in their country, a majority also feel optimistic that they can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media