Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Workshop in Sweden on Freedom of Information

A workshop to be held in conjunction with Södertörns University, Institute for Go-Governance Vienna and Institute for State Organisation and Administrative Reform Austrian Federal Chancellery


Drawing the line between Transparency and Secrecy: Balancing the public’s Right of Access to Information with the protection of the public interest

 

Following on the very successful workshops on open data held in Vienna in 2013 and London 2014, the Department of Public Law of Södertörn University, in collaboration with the Go-Governance Institute and the Institute for State Organisation and Administrative Reform of the Austrian Federal Chancellery, Vienna, will hold a workshop on the theme “Drawing the line between Transparency and Secrecy” September 8, 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden.

 

The workshop aims to bring together lawyers and political scientists, researchers as well as practitioners, in order to discuss the crucial challenge to the right of access to information posed by restraints on the public’s Right of Access to Information for the protection of the public interest.  

 

The right to information is becoming increasingly seen as fundamental complementing greater participation in decision-making, in particular against the background of the various tools of “e-government/e-democracy” which are, more and more, well-known by citizens who require public actors to make them available everywhere to the general public.

Nevertheless, society is going through a period of intense change, not least technologial, political and geopolitical. The political aftermath to 9/11 and increasing insecurity ostensibly provides legitimacy for government secrecy. Not only anti-terrorist measures could purport to justify restrictions on the release of information, but also market sensitive data might qualify since premature release could trigger the collapse of currencies and economies. In this context, also questions such as to which extent the internet needs regulation and if so, on which level, have arisen. These challenges concerning the Right of Access to Information raise difficult questions of law, culture and practice, with potentially different answers according to the country, including:

  • How can we      properly describe the scope and legal meaning of the ‘public interest’?
  • Who decides the public interest?
  • Who decides on the release of information?
  • Can the decision be challenged and if so how?
  • What sanctions exist to penalise those who divulge secret information      (e.g. media)?
  • How great  is the discretionary      power of the decision-makers?
  • What is the      rationale for protecting the public interest?
  • How can we best balance      the public’s right of access to information and the protection of the      public interest?
  • Under      what circumstances could the executive (Government) have a legitimate      right to withhold information from the legislature (parliament)? How can      this square with holding governments to account?
  • Is      it conceivable not to publish (delegated) legislation because it might      contain classified information?
  • Is there a need for a common European Internet Strategy?


 
The goals and the objectives of the workshop are, in confronting different national experiences, to broaden the perspectives of the participants and enlarge the field of research and reflection on the right of Access to Information. More precisely we aim to examine whether, in the context of significant differences of approach between the legal regimes, it is possible to identify best legislative and implementation practices and guidelines.

 

Practical information

The workshop will take place at Södertörn University, located 20 min in the south of Stockholm.

http://www.sh.se/p3/ext/content.nsf/aget?openagent&key=getting_here_1306737392426

We will meet from 9:30 am for a coffee and will begin the workshop at 10 am.

The workshop should finish by lunch time

The participants take care of their own travel costs and hotel costs.

If you need help for booking an hotel please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Working language will be English.

The organizers suggest to publish the papers in form of a booklet; please let us know whether you would be interested to contribute also to these proceedings.

Programme:

10:00 – 11:15 Session 1 : Chair  Dr Melanie Sully, Professor in Political Science, Go-Governance Institute

Freedom of information, the PSI legislation and the resulting benefits for the private sector

Georg Hittmair, head of the legal department at the Compass publishing group 

An overview on the (limits of) EU transparency principle with specific regard to apparent shortcomings of Article 297 TFEU

Dr. Alexander Balthasar, Institute for State Organisation and Administrative Reform of the Austrian Federal Chancellery

The Right of access to information from a German perspective

Ansgar Firsching, Attorney at law

11:15-11:45   Coffee and tea break

11:45-13:00  Session 2 : Chair Dr. Alexander Balthasar, Institute for State Organisation and Administrative Reform of the Austrian Federal Chancellery

 

 Statement on the current draft on the right of access to information and the discussion in Austria on the abolition of professional confidentiality

Dr Carina Neugebauer, legal and scientific department of the parliamentary administration of the Austrian Parliament.

 

Open government and access to documents: recent developments in the Netherlands? Oswald Jansen, Professor in Public Law at the University of Maastricht   

The Swedish right of access to information: unlimited although excessive requests?

Patricia Jonason, Ass. Prof in Public Law at Södertörn University

 

 

 

 

Prof. Melanie Sully from the Go-Governance Institute, Vienna

Prof. Alexander Balthasar from the Institute for State Organisation and Administrative Reform of the Austrian Federal Chancellery

Assistant Prof. Patricia Jonason from the Department of Public Law of University of Södertörn