A democratic public sphere and the possibility for an open debate about public issues are based on the right of access to information. It is pointless to express an opinion in any debate if the debated information is inaccessible. Freedom of information is a constitutional right which provides for everyone’s free access to information that is related to public policy decisions, public administration, and public spending, without justification as to why the claimant is interested in a given piece of information, and without giving explanations as to how he/she would use the information. Freedom of information, or the right to access and imparat information, makes it possible to get to know the background of certain decisions made by state institutions and local governments, and it lets us adjudge whether our elected representatives or other office-bearers made the right decision or not. This right guarantees that we can access information about how, and for what, public money is spent, that we can ask for copies of contracts between public bodies and private companies, and that different public entities publish important information about their operation online.
Freedom of information is the guarantee of the transparent functioning of institutions and companies operating with public funds and serving public goals. Transparency is one of the most efficient antidotes to corruption. It allows everyone to ask questions about our public issues and about the operation of public and municipal bodies. The more people who exercise this right, and the more often they exercise it, the bigger the chance to reveal abuses and the flaws and deficiencies of public administration. By exercising this right, we can make decision-makers accountable for wrongdoings or crimes, or, if calling them to account is impossible, we can initiate to hold them accountable.
On 30 of April, 2013, in an extraordinary process within 24 hours, the Hungarian Parliament adopted an amendment to the Act CXII of 2011 on the Right of Informational Self-Determination and Freedom of Information. The amendment is under the procedure of promulgation, it will be published in a couple of days and will enter into force on the day following the day of its publication.
In their joint letter, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Transparency International Hungary and K-Monitor Watchdog for Public Funds are requesting Attila Péterfalvi, President of the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, to speak up for a new Civil Code to regulate the definition of business secret taking into account the transparency of public funds.
A Users’ Guide to Measuring Corruption, jointly produced by UNDP and Global Integrity, is one of the first attempts to explore how best to use existing tools to measure what is increasingly viewed as one of the major impediments to development: corruption.