Concerning the handling of Acta, Hadopi, Ipred, 138/46 and other democracy restricting regulations.
Integrity and transparency goes hand in hand. Sweden has since 1766
had the act on Public access to governmental documents
The act has been of crucial importance for the Swedish democracy. Swedish citizens have been able to obtain full insight into the background of intended policy decisions and have been able to influence the public debate before the decisions have been made.
In order to fully benefit from freedom of speech, you must have information about what is happening in society. Freedom of information means the freedom to obtain and receive information and otherwise to acquaint yourself with the statements of others. The idea behind the Swedish freedom of the press is that in order to ensure free interchange of opinions and enlightenment of the public, each Swedish citizen shall have the right in print his thoughts and opinions, to publish official documents and to make statements and communicate information on any subject whatsoever. The principle that official documents are made public can be considered a part of freedom of information.
A democracy is dependent on the citizen’s possibility to influence the policy. Without public access to information, there is no real democracy.
In societies without transparency you easily get the impression that decisions are taken behind locked doors. That is a good environment for conspiracy theories, populism and extremism. Openness and public control is a fundament for democracy.
A year ago the EU commission introduced a proposal for changes in the EU regulations: “COM/2008/0229 FIN, Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents
The changes will mostly be restrictions in the public access to official EU documents. The proposal consists of 16 changes of which 11 are increased restrictions to public access, four are transparency neutral and one supports a more open access.
There is no doubt the proposal restricts the transparence and consolidates the public authorities’ position against the citizens.
The proposal will introduce restrictive exceptions for whole classes of documents. It will change the definition of what an “accessible document” is to only comprise documents that can be printed on paper or copied electronically. And member countries will have the possibility to veto handing out official documents.
Public access to official documents is fundamental for democracy. As a citizen it is important to be able to procure information regardless of whether or not you are involved in the matter and regardless of what the bureaucracy does.
It is also important to know that the policy makers have an incentive for thoroughness and carefulness in dealing with a matter. We can for example expect a greater adherence to the rule of law if the documents they produce are public.
And the bureaucracy will probably be more efficient, as better informed public discussions can be based directly on the documents. (SOU 1966/60, p 72)
The legislation on freedom of information continues to fulfill important functions in the Swedish welfare and interventionist state.
In order to hold governments accountable for its actions, citizens must know what those actions are. The government must act openly and transparently to the greatest extent possible. This require making its data available online and easy to access. If government data is made available online in useful and flexible formats, citizens will be able to utilize Internet tools to shed light on government activities. Like mashups that highlight hidden connections between different data sets, or crowdsourcing where the public is invited to systematize or analyze large amounts of data.
The EU should release public information online in a structured, open, and searchable manner and make these available in a useful form to the public.
The EU proposal COM/2008/0229 FIN is a sad step in the wrong direction.
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