Local governments in the Netherlands that have closed the possibility to file a freedom of information request via email in recent years must reconsider this decision. Digital transparency organisation Open State Foundation calls on Dutch municipalities to make it possible for citizens, entrepreneurs and journalists to file requests through digital means.
Recently, the municipality of Berg en Dal decided to close the electronic route for the submission of information requests. Since November 13, it has been impossible to file a request on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act or on the Reuse of Public Information Act via email or other digital means. There are more municipalities that have made it impossible for citizens to make such requests via email or other digital form for several years.
Unnecessary thresholds for information requests
Open State Foundation regrets the decision of the municipality of Berg en Dal and other municipalities that still close the possibility to file information or reuse of government information requests through digital means. ‘Closing this digital road is unnecessary and raises barriers for citizens, entrepreneurs and journalists who exercise their right to information’, says Arjan El Fassed, director of the Open State Foundation.
Since 1 October 2016, the Freedom of Information Act and the Reuse of Public Information Act have been exempted from the Act on Penalty payments. This means that if a government decides too late on a request, a penalty payment no longer have to be paid.
The Ministry of Interior and the Association of Municipalities are in favor of form-free information requests
Earlier this year, the then Minister of Internal Affairs Plasterk confirmed that since the Act on Penalty payments is no longer applicable, banning information requests via email has no valid grounds. The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) has also communicated to the municipalities that it is undesirable to block the submission of Wob requests by email. The VNG advises municipalities to allow requests for information to be submitted free of form and no longer to obstruct the submission of information requests by electronic means.
Open State calls on municipalities to open up digital channels
Open State Foundation calls on municipalities to open up digital channels to file government information and reuse requests. Since the abolition of the penalty payment, many municipalities that have closed their doors to electronically filed information requests still have not reconsidered their decision. If they have not done so, municipalities will have to let their citizens know that the electronic way is open again.