Freedom of information laws by country

The Freedom of Information Act, also IFG or completely law regulating access to information of the Federation, is a German Freedom of Information Act.

So far, eleven states have adopted their own similar laws under their jurisdiction. In Baden- Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony and Saxony on the other hand, there is no state Freedom of Information Act. In these countries, there is also no time planning for the adoption of such a law. In all countries, alternatively, apply at least the right to petition.

  • 6.1 Papers
  • 6.2 Books


The law on freedom of information grants each person an unconditional legal right of access to official information from federal agencies. A statement by the interests of legal, economic or any other kind is not required.

" Official information " is any official record serving purposes, regardless of the method of storage, ie for example documents in conventional documents, electronically stored information, drawings, graphics, maps, audio and video recordings.

The claim is brought against federal agencies for the purposes of the Administrative Procedure Act. Makes use of a federal agency to fulfill its responsibilities of a natural or legal person of private law, it is also required to report if the requested information available in private law person.

The concept of freedom of information, however, is ambiguous, and therefore potentially misleading. Freedom of information not described in connection with the present law namely the realization of the risks associated with the constitutional freedom of expression freedom to obtain information from generally accessible sources (Article 5 paragraph 1 sentence 1 of the Basic Law ), but is the prerequisite for this dar. precision would therefore the terms " access to information ", " transparency " (eg in Hamburg) or " to the file" ( as in Brandenburg).

The further use of the information is not regulated in this law, but in the information re-use law.

Limitations and Exceptions

Due to the principle established in § 1, the validity of the federal states is excluded. Policy for interests of a state, however, are also not formulated. Indirectly, therefore, the freedom of information included on country matters, as far as a federal authority ( § 1 para 1, p 1 IFG) about this ( at all, qua actual application of state law ) can provide information. The relevant national laws are not adopted in all provinces. Information register ( such as the state of Bremen ), or the right to inspect files ( such as the state of Brandenburg ) also merely reflect documented processes.

The Act contains a number of exceptions, by which the right may be restricted or completely denied access to information.

Freedom of information refers only to completed documented processes, ie opens no access to ongoing planning ( § 3 Protection of special areas of public concern, § 4 Protection of the official decision-making process ).

Freedom of information further includes personal data ( § 5 Protection of personal data) and operational data (§ 6 Protection of company or trade secrets ). Thus, access to personal data may only be granted if the information the applicant's interest outweighs the legitimate interests of the data subject or the data subject has consented. Regarding the contents of personnel files and personnel management systems, there is no access to information claim. However, information on the names and official addresses of employees to be made generally accessible. The same applies to information about appraisers and experts.

Elaborations of the Scientific Services of the German Bundestag shall also be exempt from freedom of information.


The Authority shall allow access to information in principle only on request, and that "without delay" by providing information, granting access to the file or ' otherwise', for example by listening to a recording or Leave a searchable database. The application of this can be done with a simple letter, but also verbally or by telephone. The Authority may impose up to 500 € fees and costs in the amount. For the fulfillment of the request, the rules of the Administrative Procedure Act. The rejection of the application is an administrative act which may be challenged by opposition and commitment action.

The move away from the official secret means that requests for information of third parties which are not involved in an administrative proceeding, the future can not be rejected simply a flat rate. Instead, access to the requested information must in principle be granted, unless in a particular case are worthy of protection and higher interests against third parties the access to information. The authority shall examine and explain this on an individual basis.

Publication duties

Regardless of specific requests for access to information that federal agencies must make the future certain information of a general nature "officially " public. Here are directories that can recognize the existing collections of information and informational purposes to organizational plans and to file plans. This information should be published on the Internet.


Despite the extensive catalog of exemptions since January 1, 2006, the principle is that the provision of access to government information is the rule and the denial of access the exception. This is a paradigm shift that was previously but the principle that official information generally not public, unless there is a special statutory normalized right to information.

In December 2008, an amendment was aimed at the initiative of the Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, which should exclude the general inspection of records of banking supervision from the right of access to information. However, the project failed because of the coalition partner SPD.

Federal Commissioner for Freedom of Information

Anyone can call the Federal Commissioner for Freedom of Information when he looks at his or her right of access to information under this Act have been violated. The purpose of the Freedom of Information Officer shall be held by the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection. The powers of the Federal Commissioner for Freedom of Information similar to those of the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection under the Federal Data Protection Act.

Legislative procedure and history

Before the Freedom of Information Act of the State, which entered into force on 1 January 2006, there was no general right of access for citizens in official documents at the federal level.

There were a number of individual rules about access rights in registers and archives, and Participation rights in procedural law. In procedural law, the principle is that to assert or defend legal interests of the parties the authority stakeholders insight has to allow the file concerning procedures, with the exception to the decision of draft decisions and work to their immediate preparation as well as the proper fulfillment of the tasks of the authority is compromised or the disclosure of the content of the files would be detrimental to the Federation or a state or insofar as the operations under a law or by their nature, including the legitimate interests of the parties or third persons, kept secret must be (§ 29 Administrative Procedures Act ).

For a long time there was - in addition to a number of individual regulations, certain registers (for example, a legitimate interest in the Land Registry ) have access to, the right of inspection of the participants in the administrative proceedings and area-specific access rights affected by the data protection law - no general right of access for citizens in official documents.

A general right of access for everyone since 1994 for environmental information under a directive of the European Community.

While in 1998 in Brandenburg, 1999 in Berlin, 2000 in Schleswig-Holstein and 2002 in North Rhine-Westphalia freedom of information laws were in force, the way to a Freedom of Information Act of the State designed to be lengthy.

While under the black-yellow coalition, a draft IFG 90/The from the opposition faction Greens was in 1997 presented enshrined the creation of IFG in the coalition agreement of the red-green coalition for 14th legislative period in 1998 and a bill by the Federal Government prepared (IFG reference ), but it came due to various reservations on the part of the ministerial bureaucracy ultimately not for the introduction of a bill. A IFG was also in the coalition agreement of the Red-Green Coalition to 15 legislature again agreed, but again failed its realization on the resistance of the ministerial bureaucracy. After a professor draft IFG ( IFG Profe ) already had been presented in 2002, a bill was on April 2, 2004 in Berlin now also submitted by non-governmental organizations. Although the federal government according to his own statement it still clung to introduce an IFG in the Bundestag, the initiative finally walked out of the government coalition parties, which brought a bill from the middle of the Bundestag on 14 December 2004.

Then the first consultation on the draft law was minimum period of three days instead of 17 December 2004, after which the draft was referred inter alia to the lead Internal Affairs Committee - After the - unusual in State practice. Against this a first expert consultation on the draft took place on 14 March 2005; on 1 June 2005 advised the Home Affairs Committee concluded on the draft and submitted to the Bundestag in his report and recommended decision before, in which he recommended to adopt the bill in the committee version. The second and third consultation was held on 3 June 2005 in the 179th session of the Bundestag. The bill was approved on second consultation with a large majority and decided in the final vote with the votes of the coalition against the votes of the CDU / CSU and the abstention of the FDP and the non-attached Petra Pau, PDS, pursuant to Article 42 paragraph 2 sentence 1 of the Basic Law.

The enactment of the opposition Law was passed in accordance with Article 77, paragraph 1 of the Basic Law of the Federal Council, which voted on July 8, 2005, the last day of the three -week deadline to appeal to the Conciliation Committee on a recommendation of its committees to make a reference. In the conciliation committee, IFG would fallen with probability bordering on certainty the resolution of the 15th and constitution of the 16th German Bundestag on 18 October 2005 as a result of failed on 1 July 2005 confidence in the Federal Chancellor, but came through the run of the FDP abstention and the black-yellow -ruled states of Baden -Württemberg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine -Westphalia and Saxony- Anhalt, the required 31 gobr to appeal pursuant to Article 52 paragraph 3, sentence 1 of the Basic Law, § majority vote is not reached, whereby the IFG finally on 5 could be made out September and announced on September 13, 2005 in the Federal Law Gazette.

One topic of discussion was the question of how far the official secrecy and especially the particularly strong in Germany data protection in the EU and its Member States can go in the context of freedom of information and must.

Practical Application

The first cases were due to more restrictive interpretation of the law, delaying tactics and disproportionate fees loud criticism are:

  • The Foreign Office wanted to ask for a simple information about 108 Euros.
  • The application of the Bundestag Jörg Tauss (then SPD) to view the full 17,000 pages agreements for truck tolls on highways, was rejected. Creating a to the trade secrets of the operator Toll Collect sanitized version, refused the Ministry of Transport to 'lack of expertise ". Contrast tauss laid a complaint, which was rejected in June 2008 on the grounds of an ongoing arbitration proceedings and violation of trade secrets. This decision is final.
  • The 36 plants of an opinion by the Physikalisch- Technische Bundesanstalt for type approval of voting machines were also not released. The manufacturer, Nedap, did not consent to disclosure of any such copyrighted documents citing § 6. The bill of costs the Ministry of Interior in the amount of 240 euros was justified by the special effort to weed out these documents.

The first brought an action before the welfare Tacheles mid-April 2006 at the Social Court in Dusseldorf on publication of the implementing instructions and recommendations for unemployment benefits by the Federal Employment Agency (BA). The documents are available according to the BA prior to the intranet, yet the publication filed for bankruptcy on January 2, 2006 has been repeatedly delayed, citing technical problems and official internal coordination difficulties. On 13 July 2006, the unemployment initiative and the Federal Employment Agency agreed in a settlement before the Social Court that the requested information are now currently published by the Federal Employment Agency on the Internet.

From a small request of the Greens in February 2009 shows that were at a slightly increased number of applications rejected in 2008 compared to last year, more than twice as many. Manfred Redelfs, research head of Greenpeace Germany, in 2010 was established, a culture of transparency had not yet enforced. The authorities tended on sensitive requests for them to refuse requests for information initially. The ball then lie with the courts, which would have to decide in case of doubt whether a right of access was authorized or not. So the authorities schöben the responsibility. That is understandable in human terms, but not in the sense of an open society and a transparent administration.

The Federal Administrative Court ( Federal Administrative Court ) in Leipzig has ruled in its judgment of 3 November 2011 in the last instance, that the Freedom of Information Act generally applies to all activities of the Federal Ministries; after that pioneering landmark judgment of the Federal Administrative Court, a federal ministry may the request for access to official information - for example, in-house documents relating to a legislative procedure or opinions to the Committee on Petitions - now no longer refuse on the grounds that the documents relating to government activity.

According to the third annual report on freedom of information, which is published by the Federal Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar, 1,557 applications were submitted after the Freedom of Information Act in 2011 and 3,280 in 2010.