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Hungary: Government to get tighter control of information

Hungarian Parliament going into the darkness?

Civil rights organisation fears less transparency, more surveillance and a harder political pressure due to a new law.
A draft law before the Hungarian Parliament aim to replace the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Commissioner with an administrative authority under the government.
This proposal is seen as a major step backwards by Tasz, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, operating since 1994.
Under present rules Hungarian citizens can only challenge secrecy of official documents if the Commissioner initiates such a procedure.
”The independent Commissioner plays a crucial role in balancing between national security and freedom if information. With an authority loyal to the executive, it will be even harder to fight for the right to know in the universe of classified information,” Tivardar Hüttle of Tasz points out.

The proposed law will also weaken the current level of protection of privacy, in several ways, according to an analysis by Tasz.
The proposed text clearly favours the state surveillance and the data usage of the business sector at the expenses of citizen’s rights.
The removal of the present Commissioner before the end of his term also breaches obligations under EU-law, namely the directive of personal data setting out that member states shall have a independent authority for monitoring the provisions of the directive.
The European Commission has been made aware of this.

Hungary was in 1992 the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to adopt a law on access to information, but the political developments have taken another turn lately.
The draft law replacing the present Commissioner comes after the adoption of a new Hungarian Constitution in April 2011. This constitution got to be known as the Ipad-constitution since the text assumingly was drafted on a computer tablet by a politician during a train journey, and only debated for a couple of weeks before adopted.
The Hungarian government – serving as EU-presidency in the spring of 2011 – have also been in conflict with the EU-Commission on a proposed new media law, which was later modified after criticism.

Staffan Dahllöf


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