Data secrecy rule tucked inside budget-related bill

Issues

A paragraph in a bill submitted by Economy Minister Mihály Varga (pictured) as legislation underpinning the 2017 budget contains a ban on access to data at “any public company or in connection with economic activities of businesses held by them” if that data could harm the company’s market interests, online news portal 444.hu reported late yesterday.

The text resembles a law on data secrecy at the Hungarian Post Office. That law was questioned by Hungary’s President János Áder a few weeks ago, but finally approved by the Constitutional Court in a March 31 ruling. On the same day, the court struck down a bill to hide the spending of foundations owned by the Hungarian National Bank (MNB), and the resulting revelations about that spending sparked calls for the ouster of MNB Governor György Matolcsy this week. 

Under the new bill, the secrecy rules that protect the Post Office would be extended to all state-owned companies. The justification submitted with the bill reportedly states that is in the national economic interest to withhold business information. The bill also states that companies dealing in electricity, natural gas, district heating or “telecommunications activities linked to records kept by an authority” would be allowed to keep contracts classified for 5-30 years, 444.hu reported.

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