Nieuws - Global protest against proposed controls on who uses French Government information
MADRID/PARIS 1- 35 civil society organizations and many international experts on freedom of expression from 25 countries today sent a letter (here) to the French Minister of Interior Brice Hortefeux and members of the French parliament calling for the withdrawal of a proposed law allowing the authorities to carry out “behaviour checks” on members of the public and organisations wanting to reuse information obtained from public bodies.
The law, being introduced as part of reforms to the security law, is due to be discussed in the French parliament before the end of 2010. The organisations signing the letter expressed concern that the provision will severely damage the right of access to information and the freedom of expression in France, particularly as the nature of the behaviour checks is not clearly specified.
“Extending background checks to those who simply want to re-use information obtained from public bodies is unnecessary, disproportionate and intimidating. It essentially categorises the re-use of information as a potentially dangerous activity,” said Toby Mendel, director of the Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada) one of the signatories of the letter.
In many countries around the world, the trend is to make public sector information freely available for widespread re-use. This is done in recognition of the significant social and economic benefits this brings, including promoting participation in decision-making. Members of the public can add value to government-generated information, for example by developing applications or programmes that benefit society as a whole.
These benefits are clearly recognised by many leading democracies – such as Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States – who are posting large volumes of raw public data online with no preconditions on who may use it or how.
“If this provision were to be adopted, France would be closing down public access to information rather than opening it up,” concluded Benjamin Ooghe-Tabanou, co-founder of Regards Citoyens.
“The right to access and reuse public information is part of the right to freedom of expression, a right protected by the French constitution. The public should not have to undergo background checks to exercise this right,” commented Helen Darbishire, executive director of Access Info Europe.
The letter was signed by the following: Access Info Europe (Helen Darbishire, Executive Director), Access to Information Programme – Bulgaria (Gergana Jouleva, Executive Director), Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) (Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator, Head of Secretariat), Apador-CH (Romanian Helsinki Committee) – Romania (Diana-Olivia Hatneanu, Executive Director), Armenian freedom of Information Center – Armenia (Shushan Doydoyan), Asociación Open Data de España – Spain (Jacobo Elosua), Asociación por los Derechos Civiles – Argentina (Álvaro Herrero), Bilgi Edinme Hakki – Turkey (Yaman Akdeni), Cainfo – Uruguay (Edison Lanza, Director Ejecutivo), Center for Independent Journalism – Romania (Ioana Avadani), Centre for Law and Democracy – Canada (Toby Mendel, Director Executive), ChangeNet – Slovakia (Norbert Brazda, Executive Director), Citizens' Campaign for Right to Information (CCRI) – Nepal (Tanka Aryal, General Secretary), Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente – Chile, Fundación Pro Acceso – Chile (Moisés Sánchez, Director Ejecutivo), Greg Michener – Brazil (professor and advocate), Public Association Center for Promotion of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information – Republic of Moldova (Vasile Spinei), Informational Policy Institute – Republic of Moldova (Alex Marciuc, Executive Director), Institute for Information Freedom Development – Russia (Ivan Pavlov), Instituto de Acceso a la Información Pública del Distrito Federal – Mexico (Jorge Bustillos Roquñí, Comisionado Ciudadano), Instituto de Derecho y Economía Ambiental (IDEA) – Paraguay (Ezequiel Santagada, Executive Director), Jamaicans For Justice – Jamaica (J. Carolyn Gomes, Executive Director), La Quadrature du Net (Philippe Aigrain), LiberTIC – France, Montreal Ouvert – Canada (Jonathan Brun), More Onion – Austria (Michael Hartl, Executive Officer), Movimento Scambio Etico – Italy, NEXA Center for Internet & Society at Politecnico di Torino – Italy, Open Knowledge Foundation (Rufus Pollock), Open Rights Group – United Kingdom (Javier Ruiz), OpenlyLocal – United Kingdom (Chris Taggart), OWNI – France, Parlorama, ReadWriteWeb France – France (Fabrice Epelboin), Regards Citoyens – France, Statewatch Europe (Tony Bunyan), Suma Ciudadana – Perú (Javier Casas), Transparency International Romania – Romania (Victor Alistar, Executive Director), UntoldLondon – United Kingdom (Babs Guthrie). Individual signatures from Andres Mejia – USA (Carter Center, ATI department), Alex Skene – United Kingdom (volunteer for WhatDo TheyKnow), David Goldberg – Scotland (information rights campaigner), Tom Steinberg – United Kingdom (Official Transparency Board member), Rolf Kleef – Netherlands (consultant open data for international development).