The First President of the Supreme Court is attacking transparency. She will restrict access to information on abuses of power

Share

Journalist at OKO.press and Archiwum Osiatyńskiego

More

The First President of the Supreme Court, Małgorzata Manowska, has filed a motion with the Constitutional Court to declare the provisions of the Act on Access to Public Information unconstitutional. ‘I will not be surprised if we remember this date as the date that transparency of the public authorities ended,’ wrote Mirosław Wróblewski of the ombudsman’s office



Wróblewski tweeted information about Manowska’s motion on the evening of 24 February 2021. The Commissioner fo Human Rights received a copy of this document ex officio. It is not yet on the Supreme Court’s website or the Constitutional Tribunal’s website.

 

In it, the First President of the Supreme Court is asking Julia Przyłębska’s Constitutional Tribunal to examine the provisions of the Act on Access to Public Information. The Act specifies the principles on which citizens may demand knowledge about the activities of the state authorities.

 

On 32 pages of her motion, the First President of the Supreme Court alleges, among other things, that the act

 

  • inadequately defines what ‘public authorities’, ‘other entities performing public tasks’ and ‘persons performing public functions’ are, and what the ‘relationship with the performance of public functions’ involves;
  • imposes the obligation to provide information on persons ‘performing public functions, which are related to the performance of those functions, including the conditions on which the functions are entrusted and performed’, thereby breaching their right to privacy and personal data protection;
  • does not provide for the ability to verify the purpose for which a person is requesting access to data.

 

Manowska considers that such provisions are unconstitutional and asks that the Constitutional Tribunal confirms that.

 

‘On 16 February, the First President of the Supreme Court filed a motion with the Constitutional Tribunal to declare the Act on Access to Public Information, K 1/21, unconstitutional to such an extensive degree that I will not be surprised that this date will be remembered as the end of the transparency of the public authorities,’ Mirosław Wróblewski wrote on Twitter.

 

Less information about the activities of the state

 

Krzysztof Izdebski – a lawyer, programme director of Fundacja ePaństwo [eState Foundation] and an activist for transparency in the operation of the authorities – points out that the First President’s accusations are primarily intended to reduce the number of institutions that should make information available to citizens.

 

‘Perhaps this is about excluding quasi-government agencies or state-owned companies from this group. Those that are not always directly related to public money, but perform public tasks and have an impact on how public life looks,’ says Izdebski.

 

Secondly, Małgorzata Manowska argues that she wants to protect the privacy of officials and the people who work with them. However, according to Krzysztof Izdebski, there is already insufficient transparency in this respect.

 

According to the president of the eState Foundation, there can also be no question of breaching the provisions of the GDPR. ‘When we were implementing this directive, there was a discussion and it was stated that people performing public functions have a limited right to privacy. The provisions of the GDPR themselves specify that they cannot affect access to public information,’ Izdebski emphasizes.

 

The First President’s allegation that offices cannot check the purpose for which the applicant is asking for the information in question is particularly questionable.

 

‘This contradicts the whole idea of the right to information. It should not matter what I do with this information next. If the law changes, it will be possible to assess which purposes are legitimate and which are not. In other words, to stretch the limits’, Izdebski laments.

 

Chilling effect as early as at the stage of filing the motion

 

An extensive justification was attached to the motion. However, according to Krzysztof Izdebski, President Manowska does not mention in it the general, systemic problems with the application of the Act.

 

‘Instead, she cites anecdotal stories. This is reminiscent of 2013, when the First President of the Supreme Court, Stanisław Dąbrowski decided to crack down on this Act because he was losing cases on access to public information,’ says Izdebski.

 

Dąbrowski’s successor, First President Małgorzata Gersdorf, finally withdrew Dąbrowski’s motion from the Constitutional Tribunal only after PiS started to take over the Constitutional Tribunal. However, the document managed to create a chilling effect.

 

‘When it appeared in 2013, many offices started to ask the administrative courts to suspend proceedings until the Court settled the case. Some courts recognized this and postponed cases for two to three years. Even if the office ultimately had to make the given information available, it was often too late,’ recalls Krzysztof Izdebski.

 

In his opinion, President Manowska’s motion will also lead to restricting information about the activities of offices and people who take part in the legislative process. As well as about possible irregularities, such as the use of public assets for private purposes.

 

‘Citizens, journalists and public opinion will suffer from these changes in the short term. In the long term, the state and public institutions will suffer. Access to information is about making offices work efficiently. It will now be easier to sweep their problems under the carpet, but this will not make the problems disappear. On the contrary, they will grow,’ Izdebski laments.

 

The authorities are counting on secrecy

 

This is not the first time that the authorities are trying use the politicized Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal to force through solutions that are advantageous for them. President Manowska’s motion may open the door to further restrictions on the civic right of access to information about the actions of the authorities.

 

Two bills were processed at the session of the Sejm on 24–25 February 2021, which significantly reduce this right:

 

  • the amendments to Article 156 of the Criminal Procedures Code, which will make it more difficult for the public to receive access to the files of investigations that have ended in the prosecutor’s office, because they will rule out the possibility of invoking the Act on Access to Public Information – the prosecutor will then make the decision;
  • a new Act on the foreign service, in which the PiS government is introducing the category of ‘diplomatic secrecy’allowing officials – on any grounds – not to provide information on the activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and related institutions.

 

‘As can be seen, there are numerous ideas for restrictions. The opening of the Act on Access to Public Information can mean that many more will appear,’ warns Krzysztof Izdebski.

 

President Manowska’s motion can result in some abuses of power being removed from the scope of the Act on Access to Public Information and never seeing the light of day.



Author


Journalist at OKO.press and Archiwum Osiatyńskiego


More

Published

March 1, 2021

Tags

Supreme CourtDisciplinary ChamberConstitutional Tribunaldisciplinary proceedingsPolandZbigniew Ziobrorule of lawEuropean CommissionjudgesCourt of Justice of the EUNational Council of the Judiciaryjudicial independenceEuropean UnionAndrzej DudaCourt of JusticeMałgorzata ManowskaIgor TuleyaEuropean Court of Human Rightsdisciplinary systemMateusz MorawieckiCommissioner for Human RightsCJEUMinister of JusticeJarosław KaczyńskiWaldemar Żurekmuzzle lawdemocracypresidential electionsKamil ZaradkiewiczNational Recovery Plandisciplinary commissionerPiotr SchabPrzemysław RadzikjudiciaryFirst President of the Supreme CourtAdam Bodnarpreliminary rulingsSupreme Administrative CourtK 3/21Hungaryelections 2020Beata MorawiecprosecutorsŁukasz Piebiakneo-judgeselectionsNational Council for JudiciaryMichał LasotaEuropean Arrest WarrantMaciej NawackiPrime MinisterJulia PrzyłębskaPresidentmedia freedomProsecutor GeneralConstitutionCOVID-19Małgorzata GersdorfPaweł Juszczyszynfreedom of expressionCourt of Justice of the European Unioncriminal lawDagmara Pawełczyk-Woickadisciplinary liability for judgesWojciech HermelińskiMarek SafjanAleksander StepkowskiOSCEPresident of the Republic of PolandSejmimmunityAnna DalkowskaNational Public ProsecutorCouncil of Europecriminal proceedingsfreedom of assemblyStanisław BiernatExtraordinary Control and Public Affairs Chamberconditionality mechanismconditionalityEU budgetWłodzimierz WróbelCriminal ChamberLaw and JusticeprosecutionNCJMinistry of JusticeNational ProsecutorStanisław PiotrowiczJarosław WyrembakAndrzej Zollacting first president of the Supreme CourtOrdo IurisK 7/21May 10 2020 electionsLex DudaNational Reconstruction PlanProfessional Liability ChamberPresident of PolandLGBTMaciej FerekXero Flor w Polsce Sp. z o.o. v. PolandBroda and Bojara v PolandReczkowicz and Others v. Polandmedia independenceIustitiaJarosław DudziczSylwia Gregorczyk-AbramAmsterdam District CourtKrzysztof ParchimowiczArticle 6 ECHRTHEMISEAWUrsula von der LeyenChamber of Professional LiabilityTVPmedia2017policeJustice Defence Committee – KOSFreedom HouseLech GarlickiEwa ŁętowskaSupreme Court PresidentArticle 7Venice CommissionPM Mateusz MorawieckiAndrzej StępkaPiotr GąciarekRegional Court in KrakówRecovery FundP 7/20Justice FundPiSC-791/19National Electoral CommissionAstradsson v IcelandK 6/21Piotr PszczółkowskiPegasusGeneral Assembly of the Supreme Court Judgeslex NGOcivil societyRussiaJoanna Hetnarowicz-SikorasuspensionJarosław GowinLGBT ideology free zonesparliamentUkraineKrystian MarkiewiczKonrad WytrykowskiJakub IwaniecZuzanna Rudzińska-BluszczDariusz DrajewiczRafał PuchalskidefamationcourtsMichał WawrykiewiczFree CourtsharassmentMarzanna Piekarska-DrążekEwa WrzosekEU law primacyLex Super OmniaAdam Tomczyńskielections 2023BelgiumNetherlandsBogdan Święczkowskijudcial independenceMaciej Miterademocratic backslidingViktor OrbanOLAFdecommunizationNext Generation EUvetoJózef IwulskiLaw on the NCJrecommendationTeresa Dębowska-RomanowskaKazimierz DziałochaMirosław GranatAdam JamrózStefan JaworskiBiruta Lewaszkiewicz-PetrykowskaWojciech ŁączkowskiHuman Rights CommissionerMarek MazurkiewiczCCBEAndrzej MączyńskiThe Council of Bars and Law Societies of EuropeJanusz NiemcewiczMałgorzata Pyziak- SzafnickaStanisław Rymarpublic opinion pollFerdynand RymarzAndrzej RzeplińskiJerzy StępieńPiotr TulejaSławomira Wronkowska-JaśkiewiczMirosław WyrzykowskireportBohdan ZdziennickiMarek ZubikDidier ReyndersEuropean ParliamentOKO.pressZiobroMichał Laskowskiintimidation of dissentersMarek PietruszyńskitransferKrystyna PawłowiczMariusz MuszyńskiPiebiak gatehuman rightscorruptionEuropean Association of Judges11 January March in WarsawPaweł FilipekMaciej TaborowskiAdam SynakiewiczBelarusstate of emergencyKrakówcoronavirusXero Flor v. PolandEU treatiesAgnieszka Niklas-BibikSłupsk Regional CourtMaciej Rutkiewiczresolution of 23 January 2020Mirosław WróblewskiCivil ChamberJoanna Misztal-KoneckaLeon Kieresright to protestSławomir JęksaPKWWiktor JoachimkowskiRoman GiertychMariusz Kamińskiinfringment actionsurveillanceEU valuesMichał WośMinistry of FinanceCentral Anti-Corruption BureauENCJJacek SasinErnest BejdaThe First President of the Supreme CourtMaciej CzajkaMariusz JałoszewskiIsraelŁukasz Radkeforeign agents lawpolexitDolińska-Ficek and Ozimek v PolandOrganization of Security and Co-operation in EuropeFirst President of the Suprme CourtPaulina Kieszkowska-KnapikMaria Ejchart-DuboisAgreement for the Rule of LawPorozumienie dla PraworządnościLGBT free zonesAct sanitising the judiciaryequalityMarek AstChamber of Extraordinary VerificationEdyta Barańskahate crimesCourt of Appeal in Krakówhate speechPutinismcriminal codeKaczyńskiGrzęda v Polandright to fair trialPaulina AslanowiczJarosław MatrasŻurek v PolandMałgorzata Wąsek-WiaderekSobczyńska and Others v Polandct on the Protection of the PopulatiolegislationRafał Trzaskowskilex Wośmedia lawRome StatuteInternational Criminal CourtPrzemysła RadzikAntykastaSenateStanisław ZdunIrena BochniakKrystyna Morawa-FryźlewiczMarcin WarchołKatarzyna ChmuraElżbieta KarskaMarcin RomanowskiGrzegorz FurmankiewiczJacek CzaputowiczMarek JaskulskiPrzemysław CzarnekJoanna Kołodziej-Michałowiczlegislative practiceEwa ŁąpińskaZbigniew ŁupinaENAPaweł StyrnaZbigniew BoniekKasta/AntykastaAndrzej SkowronŁukasz BilińskiIvan MischenkoOmbudsmanMonika FrąckowiakArkadiusz CichockiKraśnikEmilia SzmydtNorwayTomasz SzmydtNorwegian fundssmear campaignNorwegian Ministry of Foreign AffairsE-mail scandalDworczyk leaksMichał DworczykC-487/19media pluralism#RecoveryFilesArticle 10 ECHRmilestonesConstitutional Tribunal PresidentRegional Court in Amsterdamrepairing the rule of lawOpenbaar MinisterieAK judgmentBohdan BieniekSimpson judgmentMarcin KrajewskiForum Współpracy SędziówMałgorzata Dobiecka-Woźniakelectoral processChamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairspublic broadcasterWiesław KozielewiczNational Recovery Plan Monitoring CommitteeGrzegorz PudaPiotr MazurekJerzy Kwaśniewskimutual trustPetros Tovmasyancourt presidentsLMODIHRIrelandFull-Scale Election Observation MissionNGOIrena MajcherWojciech MaczugaAmsterdamKarolina MiklaszewskaRafał LisakMałgorzata FroncJędrzej Dessoulavy-ŚliwińskiSebastian Mazurekthe Regional Court in WarsawElżbieta Jabłońska-MalikSzymon Szynkowski vel SękUnited NationsJoanna Scheuring-Wielgusinsulting religious feelingsLeszek Mazuroppositionelectoral codeAdam Gendźwiłłpopulisminterim measuresPiotr PrusinowskiLabour and Social Security ChamberDariusz Dończykautocratizationtest of independenceMultiannual Financial FrameworkTomasz Koszewskipublic mediaJakub Kwiecińskiabortion rulingdiscriminationequal treatmentabortionprotestsfundamental rightsthe NetherlandsDenmarkSwedenFinlandMariusz KrasońCT PresidentGermanyCelmerC354/20 PPUC412/20 PPUAusl 301 AR 104/19Karlsruheact on misdemeanoursCivil Service ActParliamentary Assembly of the Council of EuropeEUWhite Paperlustrationtransitional justice2018Nations in TransitCouncil of the EUmedia taxStanisław Zabłockiadvertising taxmediabezwyboruJacek KurskiKESMAIndex.huTelex.huJelenJózsef SzájerKlubrádióSLAPPLIBE CommitteeStrategic Lawsuits Against Public ParticipationFrans TimmermansGazeta WyborczaUS Department of StatePollitykaBrussels IRome IISwieczkowskiArticle 2Forum shoppingadvocate generalDariusz ZawistowskitransparencyEuropean Economic and Social Committeepress releaseSebastian KaletaRights and Values ProgrammeC-156/21C-157/21C-619/18Marek Piertuszyńskidefamatory statementsWorld Justice Project awardNational Prosecutor’s OfficeWojciech SadurskiBogdan ŚwiączkowskiDisicplinary ChamberjudgeTribunal of StatePechOlsztyn courtKochenovPrzemysła CzarnekEvgeni TanchevEducation MinisterFreedom in the WorldECJIpsosFrackowiakOlimpia Barańska-Małuszeretirement ageAmnesty InternationalHudocKonrad SzymańskiPiotr Bogdanowicztrans-Atlantic valuesPiotr BurasLSOauthoritarian equilibriumlawyersArticle 258Act of 20 December 2019clientelismoligarchic systemEuropean Public Prosecutor's Officerepressive actPolish National FoundationLux VeritatisKoen LenaertsMałgorzata BednarekPiotr WawrzykharrassmentMarian BanaśAlina CzubieniakSupreme Audit OfficeTVNjournalistslexTVNGerard BirgfellerEwa MaciejewskaPolish mediapostal voteRzeszówborderpostal vote billprimacy