THE INTERIOR Ministry wants to change the existing free access to information law, which gives citizens the right to get information from public and municipal authorities, the daily SME reported.

If the changes are introduced, a public official who withholds information will no longer be committing an offence.

At present a bureaucrat who fails to provide information requested by a citizen can be fined up to Sk50,000 and be suspended from the job for up to two years.

According to the Interior Ministry’s proposal, however, the offence clause should be left out of the freedom of information law.

Jana Pôbišová, of the ministry, says this is because the state or municipal employees do not act as private entities, but rather in the name of legal entities – the state or municipal authorities, and so should not be punished as individuals.

Activists say, however, that if the clause is eliminated, it will be virtually impossible to identify who is responsible for withholding information.

“The enforcement of [people’s] right for information would be quite considerably weakened,” said Peter Wilfling from the civic group Citizen and Democracy.

Compiled by Martina Jurinová from press reports

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