Access to state-held information

Abstract

On the basis of different cases of the ECHR regarding freedom of information and its scope of protection; this article analyses the individual right for access to state-held information, taking under consideration the relation between European Law and Constitutional Law.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Spickhoff 2014, mn 46; Voßkuhle 2013, p. 1330; cf. BVerfGE 128, 326 (369) with further references.

  2. 2.

    Dreier 2016, p. 14.

  3. 3.

    The right for access to information is not an independent base right but part of the communicative freedoms, cf. Jarass 2016, art. 11 mn. 2.

  4. 4.

    Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 23 mn. 4.

  5. 5.

    Spindler and Schuster 2015, Erster Teil, A, II, 3b), mn. 26; Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 23, mn. 6.

  6. 6.

    Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 23 mn. 7 with references to Villiger 1999, mn. 611.

  7. 7.

    Gersdorf and Paal 2017, art. 10 EMRK, mn. 21.

  8. 8.

    Frowein and Peukert 2009, art. 10 EMRK, mn. 13; Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 23 mn. 7; to that ECHR, judgement of 26/03/1987, no. 9248/81—Leander v. Sweden, mn. 74; ECHR, judgement of 16/12/2008, no. 23883/06—Khurshid Mustafa and Tarzibachi v. Sweden, mn. 41; ECHR judgement of 03/04/2012, no. 41723/06—Gillberg v. Sweden, mn. 82.

  9. 9.

    Gersdorf and Paal 2017, art. 10 ECHR, mn. 21.

  10. 10.

    Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 23 mn. 7 with references to Berka 1992, p. 421; cf. Hofmann 1997, p. 6.

  11. 11.

    Buch 2011, p. 44.

  12. 12.

    Buch 2011, p. 44.

  13. 13.

    Gersdorf and Paal 2017, art. 10 EMRK, mn. 21.

  14. 14.

    Gersdorf and Paal 2017, art. 10 EMRK, mn. 21.

  15. 15.

    Cf. fn. 2.

  16. 16.

    The ECHR is implemented to very differing standards in the member states, cf. for this Keller and Stone Sweet 2008, p. 31 et seqq.; Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 3 mn. 1 et seqq.

  17. 17.

    Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 3 mn. 9; BVErfGE 90, 286 (346 et seq.); Dreier 2015, art. 24 mn. 20; Constitutional status according to Art. 25 of the constitution: Bleckmann 1994, p. 153 et seq.; Giegerich 1994, p. 113.

  18. 18.

    Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 3 mn. 10.

  19. 19.

    Grabenwarter and Pabel 2016, para. 3 mn. 10.

  20. 20.

    BVerfGE 128, 326 (374 et seqq.) with references to Häberle 2016, p. 255 et seq.

  21. 21.

    Streinz 2012, art. 11 GrCh, mn. 12 et seqq.

  22. 22.

    ECHR, judgement of 19/02/1998 no. 14967/89—Guerra and Others v. Italy, mn. 52.

  23. 23.

    ECHR, judgement of 19/02/1998 no. 14967/89—Guerra and Others v. Italy, mn. 52.

  24. 24.

    ECHR, judgement of 19/02/1998 no. 14967/89—Guerra and Others v. Italy, mn. 53 et seqq.

  25. 25.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 34 et seqq.

  26. 26.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 7.

  27. 27.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 7.

  28. 28.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 3 et seqq.

  29. 29.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 28 et seqq.

  30. 30.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 27, 36 “It considers that the present case essentially concerns an interference—by virtue of the censorial power of an information monopoly - with the exercise of the functions of a social watchdog, like the press, rather than a denial of a general right of access to official documents.”

  31. 31.

    ECHR judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 36.

  32. 32.

    ECHR judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 36.

  33. 33.

    ECHR, judgement of 14/04/2009 no. 37374/05—Társaság a Szabadságjogkért v. Hungary, mn. 37 “(…) it would be fatal for freedom of expression in the sphere of politics if public figures could censor the press and public debate in the name of their personality rights, alleging that their opinions on public matters are related to their person and therefore constitute private data which cannot be disclosed without consent.”

  34. 34.

    ECHR, judgement of 28/11/2013 no. 39534/07—Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria.

  35. 35.

    ECHR, judgement of 28/11/2013 no. 39534/07—Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria, mn. 5.

  36. 36.

    ECHR, judgement of 28/11/2013 no. 39534/07—Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria, mn. 5.

  37. 37.

    ECHR, judgement of 28/11/2013, no. 39534/07—Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria, mn. 43 et seqq.

  38. 38.

    ECHR, judgement of 28.11.2013 no. 39534/07—Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. Austria, mn. 46 “(…) moreover, of considerable public interest, the Court finds it striking that none of the Commission’s decisions was published, whether in an electronic database or in any other form. Consequently, much of the anticipated difficulty referred to by the Commission as a reason for its refusal to provide the applicant association with copies of numerous decisions given over a lengthy period was generated by its own choice not to publish any of its decisions. In this context the Court notes the applicant association’s submission - which has not been disputed by the Government—that it receives anonymised copies of decisions from all other Regional Real Property Commissions without any particular difficulties.”.

  39. 39.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, press release issued by the Registrar of the Court, ECHR 375 (2016): “The Court considered that Article 10 § 1 of the Convention could be interpreted as including, in the circumstances of the case, a right of access to information, specifying that where the access to information was decisive for the exercise of the right to receive and communicate information, to refuse that access could amount to an interference with the enjoyment of this right.”.

  40. 40.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 16.

  41. 41.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 11 et seqq. (19).

  42. 42.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 19.

  43. 43.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 180.

  44. 44.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 169 et seq.

  45. 45.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 109.

  46. 46.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 167: “The manner in which public watchdogs carry out their activities may have a significant impact on the proper functioning of a democratic society. (…) Obstacles created in order to hinder access to information may result in those working in the media or related fields no longer being able to assume their ‘watchdog‘role effectively, and their ability to provide accurate and reliable information may be adversely affected”.

  47. 47.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 167.

  48. 48.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 156.

  49. 49.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn. 156.

  50. 50.

    Classen and Nettesheim 2014, para. 17 mn. 31; Gersdorf and Paal 2017, art. 10 EMRK, mn. 12.

  51. 51.

    Cf. for instance ECHR, judgement of 22/04/2013—Animal Defenders International v. The United Kingdom, mn. 49: “In the present context, it must be noted that, when an NGO draws attention to matters of public interest, it is exercising a public watchdog role of similar importance to that of the press.”

  52. 52.

    ECHR, Grand Chamber judgment of 08/11/2016, no. 18030/11—Magyar Helsinki Bizottság v. Ungarn, mn.

  53. 53.

    ECHR, judgement of 25/09/2012, no. 33783/09—The right of getting to know the biological parents.

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Plicht, S. Access to state-held information. China-EU Law J 6, 205–213 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12689-018-0082-x

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Keywords

  • Access to state
  • Held information
  • Statute law
  • European Rights
  • Individual right
  • Scope to access
  • Social impact