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13.07.2016

Luxembourg – In the Making of a General Right of Access to Information

by Annelies Vandendriessche
On May 2nd 2016, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, the Luxembourgish journalists’ associations seized the opportunity to highlight the need for a right of access to information in Luxembourg.[1]

Based on a legislative proposal submitted to the Chamber of Deputies by its Prime Minister in May 2015,[2] Luxembourg is currently considering the creation of a general right of access to administrative documents, an important step towards fulfilling the government’s Open Government agenda for increasing State transparency.[3]

The government believes that transparent administration and decision-making processes strengthen the ties of trust between a State and its citizens, and are particularly important for guaranteeing citizens’ participation in the democratic process by enabling them to follow-up and control the working of the government.[4] Several legislative proposals for the creation of such a right had come and gone over the past 16 years.[5]

The reason for this delay lies in the complications experienced when striking a balance between the public’s right to information and the efficient day-to-day working of the administration.[6] Today, one year after its submission to the Chamber, the most recent of these proposals is under debate in the Chamber Commission for Higher Education, Research, Media, Communication and Space.[7]

Journalists are directly affected by the extent of the right of access to information granted to citizens. Even more than a general right of access for citizens, the Luxembourgish Press Council[8] and associations of journalists, have repeatedly insisted on obtaining a privileged right of access for the press, deemed necessary for the completion of its democratic watchdog function.[9]

No such privilege is contained in the government proposal, neither is its inclusion through a reform in the Law of 8th June 2004 on the Freedom of Expression in the Media[10] contemplated. But even the general right of access to information put forward in the proposal was criticised by observers: for the supposed long delays it contains,[11] the perceived discretion awarded to the authorities when accepting or refusing requests for access to documents,[12] the high number of exceptions,[13] and the indeterminacy of the notion “administrative”.[14] Especially the journalists’ associations see these issues as significantly undermining their wish to inform the public,[15] at least in view of the work procedures of professional journalists.

Observers have however also mentioned positive aspects of the proposal: Firstly, the mere fact that a law granting a general right to information is being created is generally well received and considered a step-up from the current situation where no such right exists whatsoever.[16] Secondly, according to observers an improvement for the press compared to previous proposals is that reproduction, distribution or use of the information for commercial purposes is no longer prohibited, and thirdly, they also consider the creation of an independent Review Commission[17] an improvement.[18]

With the first discussions in the Chamber Commission the legislative debate has begun, it now remains to be seen how debates and amendments will shape the right of access to information that will finally be established in the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.

Annelies Vandendriessche is a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance of the University of Luxembourg under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Mark D. Cole, Professor for Media and Telecommunication Law at the University of Luxembourg.



[1] LH, ‘Liberté de la presse: Pour un accès à l’information digne de ce nom’ (02/05/2016, Le Jeudi).

[2] Projet de loi n° 6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 5 mai 2015, Chambre des députés, Session ordinaire 2014-2015 ; Parliament dossiers can be accessed on www.chd.lu/.

[3] Laurence Harf, ‘Etat de la nation: Ecole, Luxleaks, mémoire, logement… Etat social’ (05/05/2015, Le Jeudi).

[4] Projet de loi n° 6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 5 mai 2015, Chambre des députés, Session ordinaire 2014-2015, Exposé des motifs, 2.

[5] Luc Caregari, ‘Transparence de l’administration: Accès mais pas trop’ (23/01/2015, Woxx).

[6] Procès-verbal de la réunion du 2 mai 2016, Commission de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, des Médias, des Communications et de l’Espace, Chambre des députés, Session ordinaire 2015-2016, 1.

[7] ‘Commission de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, des Médias, des Communications et de l’Espace’.

[8] ‘Conseil de Presse’.

[9] Procès-verbal de la réunion du 2 mai 2016, Commission de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, des Médias, des Communications et de l’Espace, Chambre des députés, Session ordinaire 2015-2016, 2.

[10] Texte coordonné du 30 avril 2010 de la loi du 8 juin 2004 sur la liberté d’expression dans les médias, Mémorial A – N°69, 30 Avril 2010, p 1325, found on http://www.legilux.public.lu/leg/a/archives/2010/0069/a069.pdf, unofficial translation available at http://wwwen.uni.lu/recherche/fdef/droit_des_medias/texts.

[11] Procès-verbal de la réunion du 2 mai 2016, Commission de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, des Médias, des Communications et de l’Espace, Chambre des députés, Session ordinaire 2015-2016, 2.

[12] Luc Caregari, ‘Transparence de l’administration: Accès mais pas trop’ (23/01/2015, Woxx).

[13] Procès-verbal de la réunion du 2 mai 2016, Commission de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche, des Médias, des Communications et de l’Espace, Chambre des députés, Session ordinaire 2015-2016, 2.

[14] Avis de la Chambre des Fonctionnaires et des Employés publics sur le projet de loi n° 6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 18.06.2015 ; Avis de la Chambre des Salariés sur le Projet de loi n°6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 14.07.2015 ; Avis de la Chambre de Commerce sur le projet de loi n° 6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 2.10.2015.

[15] LH, ‘Liberté de la presse: Pour un accès à l’information digne de ce nom’ (02/05/2016, Le Jeudi).

[16] Avis de la Chambre des Fonctionnaires et des Employés publics sur le projet de loi n° 6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 18.06.2015 ; Avis de la Chambre des Salariés sur le Projet de loi n°6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 14.07.2015 ; Avis de la Chambre de Commerce sur le projet de loi n° 6810 relative à une administration transparente et ouverte, 2.10.2015.

[17] ‘Commission d’accès aux documents’.

[18] Luc Caregari, ‘Transparence de l’administration: Accès mais pas trop’ (23/01/2015, Woxx).



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