CZECH REPUBLIC: Gov’t wants to restrict right to information beyond EU rules

(Prague Daily Monitor) Prague, April 27 (CTK) – The Czech government has proposed a significant restriction on the free access to information under the pretext of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) new EU rules, warns an analysis of the Reconstruction of State NGO, released to CTK.

The ANO minority cabinet claims that the new measures are only to correct shortcomings and lower the administrative burden.

The proposal is to generally prevent public release of any data that might threaten the protection of classified information and the interests of the Czech Republic abroad.

The analysis also says the offices could newly refuse to provide data from the proceedings on the violation of the Czech Republic’s commitments towards the EU. The government justified the measure, saying the judicature of the European Court of Justice enables this.

However, the provision does not give space to assess whether the release of such information would really cause some harm or were in public interest. “This would be a clearly anti-constitutional restriction on the right to information,” the analysis authors say.

The proposed exception would prevent to provide, for instance, any information about the investigation into the Capi hnizdo case [in which PM and ANO chairman Andrej Babis is prosecuted on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud] and any other cases, including possible proceedings on refugee quotas,” lawyer Petr Bouda and Oldrich Kuzilek, co-author of the law on free access to information, write in the analysis.

The exceptions were too broadly formulated and enable officials to deny access to almost any piece of information, the authors say.

Chamber of Deputies constitutional-legal committee chairman Marek Benda (Civic Democrats, ODS) also pointed out that some of the government-proposed measures went beyond the framework of the GDPR rules.

Pirate MP Ondrej Profant told daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) that he would propose that all restrictions on the right to information be deleted from the bill, in harmony with the demands of the Reconstruction of State.

The new legislation on access to information should not apply to the provision of data on criminal proceedings with the exception of verdicts, the government says.

According to the analysis, this is at variance with the Supreme Administrative Court’s verdict. However, the government justifies the change by the necessity to more efficiently protect a fair trial.

The government also explains that the exception due to the protection of foreign interests of the Czech Republic is needed not to disclose the circumstances of diplomatic talks and negotiations on international agreements.

However, this has already been embedded in the law on classified data, the analysis argues.

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