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Right to information from public institutions

The Constitutional Court has now ruled after an internal controversy that companies that are 100% state-owned are obliged to provide information under the Freedom of Information Act. So what does this mean for you?

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1. How to formulate a request for information?

The law does not prescribe any form required for submitting a request for information.

Anyone can make a request in any form, including just an email without an electronic signature. The simplicity of this rule is the magic of the whole freedom of access to information.

Here is a must-read that you can use when making a request:

[Name of mandatory file]

[Address of the obliged entity]

Subject: Request for information within the meaning of Act No. 106/1999 Coll., on free access to information, as amended

Dear Sir or Madam, In accordance with Act No. 106/1999 Coll., on free access to information, I request you to provide the following information: [.]

Please provide the information in electronic form including metadata.

Thank you

In [.] on [.]

ŽADATEL FYZICKÁ OSOBA:

Jméno: [.]

Příjmení: [.]

Datum narození: [.]

Adresa: [.]

E-mail: [.]

ŽADATEL PRÁVNICKÁ OSOBA:

Název: [.]

IČ: [.]

Adresa: [.]

E-mail: [.]

If the application is sent electronically, it must be submitted via the electronic address of the filing office (if published, otherwise to any electronic address).

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2. Where can I ask?

Don’t be afraid to get information from non-state institutions. You can also ask some private companies under the influence of the state.

The following are obligatory “communicators” of information

  • all state bodies (including, for example, the courts, the Ombudsman or the Office of the President of the Republic),
  • local authorities (municipalities, regions and their bodies)
  • public institutions,
  • those entities entrusted by law with decision-making on rights or obligations (e.g. the Forest Guard).

The broadest category is “public institution”. The courts have greatly expanded this concept through their interpretation. This category includes, for example, the General Health Insurance Company or the state enterprise Prague Airport or the national enterprise Budějovický Budvar.

However, commercial companies such as transport companies or even ČEZ a.s. can also be a mandatory entity if the state or local authorities have a “decisive” influence in them.

This is an advantage for the applicant, who can hardly make a mistake and turn to a non-competent authority.

3. By when must the authority provide the information?

The obliged body must provide the information within 15 days if the request is in order and there are no restrictions on disclosure.

If the provision of the information would be burdensome, the obliged entity may request payment of administrative costs. However, this is possible for the first request, if someone else asks the same question, the information must be provided free of charge.

Is there any limit to what information can be requested from the authorities?

Yes. In particular, classified information cannot be provided. In addition, the authorities may argue, for example, trade secrets, and may not provide information protected as industrial rights (e.g. patents) or copyrights. Opinions, future decisions and the creation of new information or information on ongoing criminal proceedings cannot be requested either. You also cannot ask for personal data of third parties.

What to do if the authority refuses to provide information?

If the authority refuses to give information or simply delays, you need to file a complaint or appeal. At this stage we already recommend consulting a specialist. If this does not help, it is possible to take legal action. The administrative courts deal with the merits of the case and examine whether the information should not have been provided, reviewing the reasons for the refusal and often upholding the action.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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