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OSCE: Donʼt change FOI law without consultation

The recently proposed amendments to the Freedom of Information Act of Hungary raise concerns about access to public information, and the issue should be discussed with all stakeholders before adoption, Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media said today.

“I call on the Parliament not to adopt the proposed amendments and to launch a public discussion with all stakeholders to ensure that the changes will support, and not limit, access to public information,” said Mijatović (pictured).

Hungary’s Ministry of Justice on June 26 proposed draft amendments in a fast-track procedure, and they are ready to be voted on in Parliament.

Mijatović, who is the top official in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in charge of monitoring and advocating for free speech, said that access to information is fundamental in providing transparency and accountability in public affairs.

“The media performs a key role as the public watchdog,” Mijatović said. “Restricting this role by limiting freedom of information could stifle public debates and weaken journalism and media freedom in Hungary.”

The Hungarian government first amended the FOIA on April 30, 2013, when a special sitting of the Hungarian Parliament adopted an amendment limiting the scope of Hungary’s Freedom of Information Act, Transparency International said earlier. At the time, Transparency International complained that the amendment was passed in an extraordinary manner within less than 48 hours.

The current amendment is also set for rapid passage, but Mijatović urged Parliament to take more time to solicit broad stakeholder comment on the law.