German promise to adopt freedom of information law

By EDRi · July 15, 2004

The German government is promising to finally implement a freedom of information law, according to an article published in Berliner Zeitung from 3 July 2004. After many years of debate within the red-green coalition, a legal proposal will be sent to parliament (Bundestag) after the summer break. Mrs Stokar, an MP for the Green party, is quoted to say that the project could be finalised before the end of the year 2004. “We wish to expand civil rights. That’s why the decisions from the ministries must become accessible.”

The German e-zine Heise adds that a freedom of information law was already announced in 1998, in the coalition agreement between the Social Democrat Party (SPD) and the Greens. The project was stalled many times, until the national ministry of internal affairs released a discussion draft in the summer of 2001. The legal proposal was rejected in June 2002, according to the Greens because of ministries led by social democrats.

Germany and Switzerland are the only 2 major Western European member states of the Council of Europe (45 countries) without such a law on accessibility of governmental acts and decision making. Within the EU, only Cyprus, Malta and Luxemburg lack this kind of legislation. And there are a few still in SEE (Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia) and Belarus and Russia (pending, also possible soon).

Though Dave Banisar from EDRI-member Privacy International is sceptical about progress in Germany, overall he is positive. “Access to information ebbs and flows in any country but the transformation has begun and it is no longer possible to tell citizens that they have no right to know.” According to the excellent survey he updated in May 2004 “over fifty countries have adopted comprehensive laws to facilitate access and over thirty more are in the process. The laws are broadly similar, allowing for a general right by citizens, residents and often anyone else to demand information from government bodies. There are exemptions for withholding critical information and appeals processes and oversight.”

Buerger sollen Akteneinsicht erhalten (in German, 03.07.2004)

Neuer Anlauf für Informationsfreiheitsgesetz (in German, 04.07.2004)

Global survey freedom of information legislation (12.05.2004)