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Comments to the bill amending the Access to Public Information Act

On Tuesday, 26 July 2011, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Polish Chamber of Press Publishers submitted their comments to the government’s bill amending the Access to Public Information Act and certain other acts (Sejm paper no. 4434).

The comment raised the issue of the bill’s ambiguous provisions, primarily article 5a added directly prior to the document’s publication. Such unclear regulation may result in imposing significant limitations of access to such information which is crucial from the perspective of the public policy, with the press being a foreseeable victim of the possible restrictions.

Access to ‘information about opinions, analyses, standpoints made in the process of privatisation and commercialisation of property owned by the State Treasury and local government authorities, access to opinions, instructions and analyses made or commissioned by the Republic of Poland and/or the State Treasury for the purposes of proceedings before courts, tribunals and other adjudicating bodies to which the Republic of Poland, State Treasury or local government authority is a party or participant and access to negotiation instructions given in the course of entering into international instruments’ will be available only after such proceedings or negotiations are concluded.

The organisations are also concerned with the deletion of bill’s article 22 providing for a civil appeal against a decision refusing access. It is true that the practice of equally available civil and administrative appeal may lead to legal confusion. Still, article 22 allowed common courts to review the accuracy of certain access rulings made by administrative courts but if article 22 is to be repealed, there will be no review mechanism at all.

The HFHR and the Polish Chamber of Press Publishers also referred to the insufficiently precisely drafted chapter 22a introducing the right to reuse public information. The NGOs are, above all, concerned with the lack of precision in setting out legal rules, most probably resulting from the legislative haste associated with drafting the bill.

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