Freedom of Information
What does freedom of information mean?
In short, this refers to the set of rights you have when it comes to accessing information of public interest that is processed by anyone carrying out public duties (in most cases this will be the state or local government). Hungary’s laws ensure that people have the opportunity to access data of public interest (or data declared to be of public interest by law) if the data controller is performing a public function, the information is related to their activities and the data is under their control.
In general, what kinds of things are considered of public interest?
In the broadest sense, you can consider data to be of public interest if it is controlled by anyone carrying out public duties. This includes laws, acts, decisions, orders, proposals, statistics, public tenders, contracts, photos, videos, and personal or business information that has been made public by law.
Can personal or business data be considered of public interest?
Generally personal data cannot be considered to be of public interest. However, there are some narrow circumstances, precisely defined in the law, when personal data may be made public on grounds of being in the public interest. For example, details regarding certain employees acting on behalf of a processor performing a public function may be accessible. As for business data, it may be possible to access information even though it is under the control of a private company, so long as it pertains to the use of public money or involves state budgetary issues, or if the company has a contract with the state or local government.
How can I access information of public interest?
Anyone may make a request to access data of public interest to the state organ or organization in question. The petition may be made verbally, submitted in writing or electronically. There might be a small fee charged to cover the cost of making copies. If the data request is incomplete or unclear, you will be asked to give more specific information.
Personal data that is submitted as a part of the application may only be used to process the request.
If the data that you have requested has already been published in an electronic format, you may be directed to a public source containing the data. Your request will then be considered satisfied.
How long will it take to access the requested information?
The institution or person responsible for processing the information has to fulfill the request within the shortest possible time, but no more than 15 days from the time of submission. A time extension of an additional 15 days is allowed if your request concerns a large volume of data. In the latter case, you will be notified within the first eight days following the receipt of the request. The fee charged may only be based on the actual cost of making the copies. If there is a large amount of data to be copied, requests must be honored within 15 days of the fee payment.
If your application has been rejected, you will be notified no later than eight days from the date of submission of the reason for the rejection and what your legal options are.
Under what circumstances might my request be denied or restricted?
Freedom of information law has to strike a balance between someone’s right-to-know and the smooth functioning of government and businesses, all the while defending personal rights to privacy. As such, there are limitations regarding the type of data you can access. Examples of information which is restricted by law includes information that
- qualifies as personal data (unless the personal data has been made public by law)
- qualifies as classified information
- qualifies as business secrets (as defined in the civil code)
- qualifies as intellectual property
- has been generated during the course of decision-making (such as meeting minutes and notes). Such data may only be accessed with the permission of the executive of the organization that created the data. This exclusion is valid for 10 years from the time of the generation of the data.
The right to access may also be restricted
- in the interest of national security or defense
- to prosecute or prevent offences
- in the interest of environmental protection or nature preservation
- in the interest of central financial and exchange-rate policy
- in regard to foreign relations and relations with international organisations
- in regard to legal or administrative proceedings.
If the requested document contains a mix of data that can be disclosed as well as data that cannot be disclosed, then the latter will be made unrecognizable in the copy.
The deadline has passed and I don’t have an answer. What should I do?
You are entitled to turn to either the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) or to the courts if the deadline for rejection or fulfillment has passed (including any legal extensions of the deadline).
My request has been rejected. Where can I turn?
If you feel your application has been unjustly rejected, you are entitled to turn either to NAIH or to the courts. Keep in mind that you must apply to the courts for redress within 30 days of
- the announcement of rejection of the request
- the expiration of the deadline
- the expiration of the deadline set for paying the fee.
The NAIH may intervene in court proceeding in favour of the applicant.
For more information on the types of assistance NAIH can provide, please see the English>General Information section of this website.
What types of redress can the court give?
If the court agrees with your petition, it will make the data controller share the requested data of public interest with you.
The court is entitled to modify the sum of the fee charged for making a copy, or order the launch of a new procedure to determine an appropriate fee.
I can’t speak Hungarian. May I submit my request in another language?
Requests for access to data of public interest may not be rejected solely because your application was in a language other than Hungarian.
What kind of other obligations do public institutions have regarding data of public interest?
Public organs and institutions, especially those involved with budgetary, financial, or contractual matters, must not only allow access to data of public interest upon request, but they must also ensure that accurate and expedient information is readily available.
The data controller is obliged to make up-to-date data of public interest plainly available on either their own websites or on a centralized website. They may not make access dependent upon on the disclosure of personal identification information. Detailed information about how to submit a request for public data must be clearly provided on the website and the website must also include information about options for legal redress.
How can I access my files containing personal data?
You have a right to access your personal information that is processed by state or local governments as well as private entities. The controller shall provide a clear answer in writing within the shortest possible time following the submission of the request, but no later than 30 days from the time of submission. In most cases it is free of charge.
This area of law, however, is distinct from freedom of information in Hungary. It is regulated under the rights of data subjects in the same act.
If you have a concern or a question regarding your freedom of information request, please contact the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH).