Rechtspanorama „Informationsfreiheitsgesetz“

Im Rechtspanorama am 04.03.2024 berichtet RAK Vize-Präsidentin Mag. Bettina Knoetzl über das Informationsfreiheitsgesetz.

Wie die Umsetzung in der Praxis aussehen wird, bleibt abzuwarten.

Wer rechtliche Unterstützung benötigt, findet diese bei der Wiener Rechtsanwältin oder beim Wiener Rechtsanwalt des Vertrauens:

Information Freedom Act

On February 15, 2024, Austria’s Freedom of Information Act (IFA) was passed. For Austrians, it marks a turning point: Official secrecy has had its day and a right to access information (i.e. information or access to files and records) as a subjective right of every individual is from now on enshrined in the constitution. Governmental institutions have been set for more transparency. They are required to make information available proactively.  

The IFG represents an opportunity for Austria to strengthen the rule of law and create fair, level playing field, competitive conditions for businesses. The IFG marks a fundamental change to Austria’s legal framework, requiring even a change of Austria’s constitution. As this can be done only with a 2/3 majority, Austria’s advances in transparency have been remarkably slow, compared to our neighboring countries. Germany has had an IFG since 2006 and Switzerland since 2004, but in Austria, the resistance of the guardians, some of whom have regarded official secrecy as a pillar of a functioning administration, and the sluggish — who shy away from the burden required to produce requested information — has been tenacious. But, now, in the movement toward transparency, propelled by a tailwind from civil society, a compromise has finally been reached – albeit a weak one, according to critics. There is no ombudsman, and the broad list of exceptions contained in Section 6 of the IFA, raise concerns: will real freedom of information, barely off the ground, actually take flight, or be grounded in an apparent Pyrrhic victory for Austria’s winged champions of transparency?

Failure of the effort doesn’t have to be the case! In fact, implementation in practice will determine the effectiveness of the new law, as the IFA leaves leeway for the administration. It remains to be seen how often the much-criticized list of exceptions will be used and how much resistance or support there will be from the administration regarding access to information. We would hope that the decision is predicated on the notion that transparency is one of the more effective means of combating corruption: A transparent government is the goal. This can be achieved when the state administration consciously and proactively stands behind the movement. Your legal profession will fight for this. It will support those seeking information with advice and assistance so that there is real freedom of information access ability in Austria.