Restricted information

Restricted information is intended for a limited number of persons who use it to perform their duties and normally only they receive access to it. Disclosure of such information can impair the functioning of state institutions or harm the rights of other persons.

Limited access to certain information can be prescribed by:

  • law
    For example, information concerning the private life of an individual, confidential information concerning criminal investigations or documents on state security marked as classified.
  • head of the state institution
    In this case the head of the institution should explain that there is a need to limit access to the information. Heads of state institutions can only restrict access to information for one year, after which they must then revaluate the need to restrict it further.

Request

In order to gain access to restricted information, you need to explain why you need this information and what you will use it for. Restricted information can only be requested in writing.

Time

If your information request does not require additional activities from the institution, the institution should provide the information within 15 days of the receipt of your request.

Fees

If the information that you are interested in is ready and available and does not require the collection of any additional data by the authorities, it should be provided free of charge. However, the state may require you to cover the fees necessary to find or copy the information you are looking for. Such fees should not exceed the costs of collecting the information.

Refusal & Explanation

State institutions can partly or fully deny you access to restricted information. This may, for example, be done to protect the rights of other persons or other important interests. However, in such a case they must issue a written decision where it indicates:

  • the motivation, indicating the reasons for denying access to the information requested
  • the legal basis for such refusal, including a reference to a law or government regulation
  • the procedure and time-limits for appeal if you disagree with this decision

Criteria

Whenever a state institution or a court considers whether access to information should be granted or denied, they must balance your rights and interests with other interests protected by the concealment of the information. Therefore, they must evaluate:

  • the public importance of the information you would like to receive
  • your purpose and reasons for requesting the information
  • the potential harm that could be done to the rights of other persons or other important interests if the information is disclosed

example State authorities may provide an environmental NGO access to general information about a planned wind power park, but might refuse to provide access to technical information in the interest of protecting industrial secrets. However, an absolute denial of access to information in this case would clearly be disproportional.

How to complain

Read more about how to complain where you have been denied access to restricted information.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education