To promote transparency litigation, GFF will sponsor legal action under the German Freedom of Information Act (Informationsfreiheitsgesetz, IFG), striving to make the work of the German government and administration more transparent. Following the principle of strategic litigation, we will bring particularly suitable IFG cases to court.
What is Transparency Litigation?
The 2005 German Freedom of Information Act (Informationsfreiheitsgesetz, IFG) first introduced the principle that citizens have a right to know what their federal administration is doing. Most federal states have introduced similar provisions since then. Section 1(1) of the IFG provides:
Everyone is entitled to official information from the authorities of the Federal Government in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
Previously, a right to information only existed if it was exceptionally provided for. The IFG turned rule and exception around: Now, an information must be provided, unless the application can exceptionally be rejected. That is the case where, for example, third parties are affected, or where the disclosure of the information could threaten public security. The reasons for rejecting an application are laid down in the IFG as well.
But public agencies are often too secretive with their information and deny the disclosure without good reason. In that case, the rejection can be challenged within one month by administrative appeal and, if that fails, an appeal to the administrative courts.
We call these challenges under the Freedom of Information Act “transparency litigation,” since they can increase the transparency of government and administration in Germany.
What are the GFF’s Transparency Sponsorships?
Transparency Sponsorships are GFF’s way to support transparency litigation under the German Freedom of Information Act. GFF thereby cooperates with “Frag den Staat” (Ask the State), a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation.
“Frag den Staat” supports individuals and organizations in bringing applications for public information under the Freedom of Information Act (or a similar state law).
Where such an application is rejected, the applicant can request a Transparency Sponsorship from GFF for her legal action.
Among the requests for Sponsorships forwarded by “Frag den Staat,” GFF selects those applications for information that seem particularly suitable to promote transparency beyond the individual case, applying its strategic criteria. GFF then supplies and sponsors a specialized expert to represent the applicant in her proceedings, and documents the case with “Frag den Staat.”
This project and the corresponding campaign are being funded by the Bewegungsstiftung / Stiftung Bridge and are currently in preparation. GFF’s Transparency Litigation portal will go online shortly.