WOB value



Unused potential for filing requests

The first overall evaluation in Germany shows, that very few are using the legislation, that came into force in 2006. In Britian, where the wob came into force in 2005, journalists proudly show off story after story obtained through wobbing.

The German wob-Ombudsman, Peter Schaar, recently published his first report about "the unknown law" as Financial Times Deutschland chose to call it.

The ombudsman emphasises the revolutionary character of introducing the wob and the need among officials to re-think their recent approach. "In some departments the resentments against freedom of information are still significant," he writes in his report. "The law assumes a shift from official secrecy towards transparency and inclusion of citizens, this has not yet broadly taken place," he says in his conclusions.

According to his pressrelease, the ombudsman sees a few fields in the use of this new legislation, that need special attention.

  • Professional secrecy
  • Competition
  • Secrecy declared in other legislation
  • Contractual secrecy

Neither of these, he underlines, may lead to emptying the German wob, Informationsfreiheitsgesetz, of it's meaning. On the contrary, each single application has to be evaluated individually.

The ombudsman hopes, that growing experience with the new "civil right" will help through this transformation. This right has to be respected and furthered, he writes.

Among the journalist community, few have focused heavily on wobbing, eventhough some cases have been brought successfully leading to stories in large media.

By Brigitte Alfter


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