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Freedom of information law criticised

July 22nd, 2015

The leading left-wing daily contends that the government has amended the information act in order to weaken transparency and curtail the right of the opposition to unveil corruption.

Earlier in July, the Hungarian Parliament approved an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act. Among other changes, the amendments stipulate that requests for public information will need incur a fee to cover the expenses including photocopy costs related to the publication of the data. According to its critics, the law also makes it easier for the government to refuse the publication of data.

Last week LMP MP Benedek Sallai submitted a data request to the Hungarian Land Fund. Mr Sallai suspects corruption in current government land sale and leasing practices, and requested hundreds of files related to the lease of public land. The office said that the LMP politician can get the files if he pays 7.7 million Forints to cover the cost of copying the files.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial suspects that the government wants to curtail access to public data in order to cover up corruption. The leading left-wing daily in a comment on Mr Sallai’s data request, contends that the amendment of the information act is a cynical act that will further weaken transparency limiting the access even of MPs to public information.

(The Land Office said the fee was calculated on the basis of the existing law, and the recently approved amendment will only come into force in September)

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