COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

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RECOMMENDATION No. R (81) 19

OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS TO MEMBER STATES
ON THE ACCESS TO INFORMATION HELD BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES1

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 25 November 1981,
at the 340th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members;

Having regard to Assembly Recommendation 854 on access by the public to government records and freedom of information;

Considering the importance for the public in a democratic society of adequate information on public issues;

Considering that access to information by the public is likely to strengthen confidence of the public in the administration;

Considering therefore that the utmost endeavour should be made to ensure the fullest possible availability to the public of information held by public authorities,

Recommends the governments of member states to be guided in their law and practice by the principles appended to this recommendation.

Appendix to Recommendation No. R (81) 19

The following principles apply to natural and legal persons. In the implementation of these principles regard shall duly be had to the requirements of good and efficient administration. Where such requirements make it necessary to modify or exclude one or more of these principles, either in particular cases or in specific areas of public administration, every endeavour should nevertheless be made to achieve the highest possible degree of access to information.

I.

Everyone within the jurisdiction of a member state shall have the right to obtain, on request, information held by the public authorities other than legislative bodies and judicial authorities.

II.

Effective and appropriate means shall be provided to ensure access to information.

III.

Access to information shall not be refused on the ground that the requesting person has not a specific interest in the matter.

IV.

Access to information shall be provided on the basis of equality.

V.

The foregoing principles shall apply subject only to such limitations and restrictions as are necessary in a democratic society for the protection of legitimate public interests (such as national security, public safety, public order, the economic well-being of the country, the prevention of crime, or for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence), and for the protection of privacy and other legitimate private interests, having, however, due regard to the specific interest of an individual in information held by the public authorities which concerns him personally.

VI.

Any request for information shall be decided upon within a reasonable time.

VII.

A public authority refusing access to information shall give the reasons on which the refusal is based, according to law or practice.

VIII.

Any refusal of information shall be subject to review on request.


1 When Recommendation No. R (81) 19 was adopted, and in application of Article 10.2.c of the Rules of Procedure for the meetings of the Ministers’ Deputies, the Representatives of Italy and Luxembourg reserved the right of their governments to comply with it or not.