Denmark: One year and still no answer
Danish investigative journalist Bo Elkjær has waited for requested documents on the treatment of prisoners in Iraq for more than a year. Danish law stipulates an answer should be given after 10 days.
”As far as I understand this is in an outright breach of the law,” journalist Bo Elkjær comments to online magazine Journalisten.dk (link in Danish only).
Oluf Jørgensen, an expert in media law agrees:
”This is clearly against the law on access to public documents. A year has passed and the Ministry of Defence has done nothing but repeatedly kept telling that an answer has been postponed.”
Bo Elkjær wants to through light on to what extent the Danish Ministry of Defence was made aware of maltreatment of prisoners taken by Danish armed forces in Iraq in 2004.
But instead of disclosing documents, or rejecting the request, the Ministry has postponed an answer four times, due to ”the complexity of the case”.
”This is completely ridiculous. It's not a complicated exercise to copy a few papers from a file and send them to me,” Elkjær says.
The Danish Ombudsmand who is appointed by the Danish Parliament, Folketinget could be asked to investigate the case and perhaps correct the Ministry of Defence, but Bo Elkjær has so far chosen not to take this step – for tactical reasons.
”If I turn to the Ombudsman every time I get a bad treatment there's a risk of waisting his time, and
reducing the importance of his work,“ Elkjær says.
Media law expert Oluf Jørgensen says he understands this argument, adding that a complaint to the Ombudsman in itself would give the Ministry new excuses not the provide the already delayed answer.
Bo Elkjær is known for of having covered large scale fraud with trade in carbon dioxide quotas, and for having repeatedly asked former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for an interview on the decision of Denmark going to war in Iraq.
This decision was taken by the Folketing with the smallest possible margin – one vote in favour.
It took two years, 671 written requests, and a an open criticism from the Ombudsman before Fogh Rasmussen accepted to talk to Elkjær four years later.