The Media Legal Defence Initiative has coordinated a coalition of organisations and submitted filed written comments with the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, urging the Court to clarify its position on the right of access to information under the European Convention.
MLDI has intervened alongside Article 19, the Campaign for Freedom of Information, the Access to Information Programme, and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union in a case that is set to clarify the obligations that are on public bodies to provide access to information.
The case was brought following the refusal of two police departments to provide an NGO, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, with the names of public defenders retained by their departments and the number of their respective appointments. The Hungarian courts refused to compel the police departments to provide the information, holding that the names of the public defenders were not public information and their activity was private in nature.
MLDI’s written comments give an overview of the principles underlying Article 10 of the European Convention, as well as recent case law from the Court, to make the argument that access to information is to be recognised as part and parcel of the right to freedom of expression. This argument is bolstered by international, regional and comparative law that demonstrates an emerging international consensus on access to information. The written comments also highlight the vital importance of access to official information for the purposes of investigative journalism, and any other social watchdog activity, and urge the court to find that there is an obligation on public bodies to provide information of public interest.
The Grand Chamber’s decision in this case will be pivotal for future access to information cases, including the case of Kennedy and The Times v. United Kingdom in which we have also acted as interveners.
MLDI’s intervention can be read here. MLDI would like to thank Richard Clayton QC and Christopher Knight for drafting the intervention, and Otto Volgenant, Prof. Dr. Dirk Voorhoof and Prof. Dr. Roger Mann for their valuable input.
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