Dutch municipalities reticent to comply with freedom of information act

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Several municipalities have not only refused to comply with a WOB request (Dutch freedom of information act), but are actively discussing with each other how to frustrate the process. Webwereld reports this (Dutch) where Brenno de Winter is trying to find find out in how far municipalities are using Free and Open Source software.

On a closed mailing list, the municipality of Boekel (Noord Brabant) pointed out that not only would these WOB requests generate a lot of work, but also have “far reaching consequences,” whatever they may be. Boxtel and Schijndel, also from Noord Brabant, apparently replied that they too have received “nonsensical questions.” One of the suggestions was to hire an IT savvy lawyer. The name of Arnoud Engelfriet, formerly of Eindhoven, Noord Brabant, was dropped, who told Webwereld that he has no interest taking a job that “endangers a citizen’s right to freedom of information.”

In the meantime, De Winter has been replying in Webwereld’s comment section, and he seems to be suggesting that most municipalities that have responded, have done so in a positive manner: “[…] several municipalities have answered already. […] My phone is ringing all the time, and every time we manage to get to get a positive outcome.”

A 2008 informal study by journalist Jeroen Trommelen (Dutch) revealed that of 51 WOB requests sent to several ministries, only one came from an actual journalist.

Disclaimer: according to Webwereld De Winter’s WOB requests were made on behalf of him and the Vrijschrift foundation. I am an advisor to the latter.

Photo by Mark Crossfield, some rights reserved.

3 Comments »

  1. It’s shameful that our government would conspire (however ineffectively) to withhold public information from its citizens.

    Comment by Barry — March 26, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  2. […] are using so-called Free and Open Software, several of these governments have been actively conspiring to thwart De Winter’s efforts. They ‘forgot’ to send some of the required documents, billed him for their time, and […]

    Pingback by 24 oranges » Supply the poor government with some much needed transparency — November 15, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

  3. […] Brenno de Winter sought a judge’s legally binding opinion after several municipalities conspired early last year to sabotage his freedom of information requests by making him pay for them. The court reasoned that since freedom of information requests are for […]

    Pingback by 24 oranges » Journalist wins lawsuit over freedom of information request costs — May 11, 2010 @ 11:02 am

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