公開檔案,讓公民監察政府!--獨立媒體(香港)及《香港獨立媒體網》就立法會公開資料政策的意見書

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(圖: wyliepoon)

前言

獨立媒體(香港)是香港第一個以推動獨立媒體運動為宗旨的組織,於2004年開始和《香港獨立媒體網》合作,成為本地其中一個具有影響力的民間媒體。隨著近年互聯網技術發展,公眾及小型民間團體皆有資源加入這股新媒體的潮流,開拓一個強調多元、直接參與及全民監察的媒體時代。本會相信,公民獲取政府資訊的權利,有助社會落實民主參與、防止貪污、實踐新聞及資訊自由,營造公開透明的政府和公民社會。故此一直積極推動相關議題,包括爭取香港訂立《檔案法》和《資訊自由法》。

我們歡迎立法會制訂公開資料政策,尊重香港公民基本的資料信息權利(Right of access to information)及新聞自由。媒體能夠自由獲得資訊對政府及影響社會的機構進行有效檢查,市民能夠行駛知情權利,進而對侵犯權利的事件進行申訴,對公民社會及民主發展問責政府尤為重要。然而,目前立法會提出的公開資料及檔案政策尚有可以進一步開放及改進的地方。

首先,我們認為,政府檔案有別於一般私人或商業機構內部文件,這些檔案牽涉公眾利益,有其公共面向,也是公共社會資源。任何政府檔案的機密及資料敏感程度將隨年月遞減,自動成為社會發展的史料,應可讓公眾查閱。事實上,多個先進國家早已訂立《資訊自由法》,如加拿大、日本、美國、英國等。立法會是次正規化公開資料的處理機制,正好為日後訂立《檔案法》和《資訊自由法》奠定基礎,同時成為其他政府機構的示範作用。

立法會作為一個立法機構,擔當社會議政論政的主要正式渠道,特別是目前政府缺檔案保存及公開的情況下,立法會諮詢及會議記錄,往往成為公眾獲得知情權的少有途徑,故此,應盡可能披露各項資料,原則是公開和透明;查詢機制則應簡單便捷;至於保密年期,則盡可能縮短。

檔案分類

現時秘書處保管的資料有三類:公開、非保密及保密資料,保密資料更設四級:限閱、機密、高度機密及絕對機密。保密檔案都是公眾難以接觸,亦無法得知分類是否合理。本會接觸眾多新聞媒體工作人員及公民記者,經常接到投訴政府內部把不同檔案列作「保密」級別,限制傳媒或公眾申索。故此,我們建議秘書處統計及公開每年列作保密資料的檔案及相關級別數目,詳列劃分準則、及其具體內容類型,讓公眾參考。

非保密的檔案,封存期應不多於15年。至於保密檔案,既然設4級別,而性質及機密程度不盡相同,封存期亦應按不同級別制定,這些檔案最長封存期亦不應多於30年。保密檔案的解密覆檢程序設於結案後25年,我們認為年期太長,絕對機密的檔案覆檢期應該縮短,其他保密級別按程度遞減。各保密檔案名稱應設目錄索引,讓公眾得悉其存在。

我們鼓勵秘書處設定期公告,通知市民即將解密的焦點檔案(如feature archive story),簡介其對社會意義,增加公眾對歷史檔案興趣和關心。

建議豁免公開的資料

今次立法會正式建議將部分檔案列為「豁免公開」,我們深表關注,原因是該等檔案將永遠不見天日,公眾無從知曉。我們不排除有需要將若干檔案列為「豁免公開」,但在資訊透明的大原則下,必須謹慎行事,界定適合豁免公開的資料類別應該愈少愈好。我們認為第9段中所提到的三個豁免公開的例子,其中兩個並不適當。《個人資料(私隱)條例》(第486章)並不保護當事人死後其個人資料的保密,所以內含個人資料的檔案(數量可能會相當多,因為有可能包括立法會每年接受申訴的檔案)並不應自動歸入豁免公開的種類。另外受法律專業特權保護的法律意見,由於此等法律意見並非給予議員或秘書處職員個人,而是給予正在執行職務,身份為公職人員的議員和秘書處機關,故此公眾利益和知情權應該凌駕在法律專業特權保護之上。

我們建議刪去豁免類別(b)項,原因是公眾利益和知情權應該凌駕在以公職人員身份執行職務的法律專業特權保護之上。

我們建議刪去豁免類別(d)項,即「與個別申訴個案有關的資料或檔案」。立法會的申訴機制,就是讓普通市民有機會直接與議員會面,申訴對政府措施或政策的不滿。這些申訴直接反映當代社會不同期間市民關心的議題和政策,如有必要保護當事人私隱,可隱去個人資料,一如現時每季個案申訴摘錄的做法,或者讓私人資料隨當事人過身後自動解密,而不是直接豁免,令大量寶貴資料永不見光。立法會亦可在申訴表格訂明申訴資料將於保密期(列明期限)後公開,作為社會公共史料資源。這樣亦間接促使申訴人認真對待申訴程序,對申訴內容負責。

我們建議刪去豁免類別(e)項,即「行使《立法會(權力及特權)條例》所賦予權力的委員會有關的資料或檔案」,既然諮詢文件中已提到「如過早披露…會對有關各方造成傷害和損害」即說明該等檔案有時效性,而每次立法會該條例所賦予的權力時,必定是有關重大事件,所以直接豁免是不可接受。

我們建議刪去豁免類別(f)項,即「立法會及轄下委員會正在進行的工作、商業敏感資料、研究、統計、數據及預定出版物有關的資料或檔案」,既然諮詢文件中已提到「如過早披露…會造成誤導或不公平情況,或引致不當地獲得利益和好處」即說明該等檔案有時效性,所以是完全沒有需要直接豁免。

我們建議刪去豁免類別(h)項,即「與行政管理委員會及秘書處的事務或運作有關的資料或檔案」。以今日資訊科技的高速發展,任何資訊科技安全系統皆會定期更新替換,所以只要保密年期相當,披露時已經完全過時及無關,絕不能夠對議會運作產生任何影響或傷害。同時,此等資料對後世研究議會運作,是非常寶貴的史料。

最後,我們強烈要求刪去豁免類別(j)項,即「行政管理委員會(下稱「行管會」)認為不適宜披露的資料或檔案」。行管會由當然成員及議員互選產生。惟香港特首選舉未有普及而平等的選舉機制,而立法會功能組別猶在。現時並沒有機制保證每一屆行管會必然是由多黨派議員組成,而它卻擁有禁止披露檔案的權力,掌管公民社會的知情權,於理不合。

索取政策、覆檢及投訴機制

諮詢提到公眾在封存期內仍可要求索取保密及非保密檔案,秘書處應就定期公佈索取個案數字、檔案類型、保密級別、成功及拒絕原因,增加機制透明度。

秘書處應制定合理回覆及處理時間,定期公佈達標比率,申請處理最長及平均時間。

覆檢及投訴機制應稟承公平、公正和公開原則,審裁結果及雙方陳詞應上載網上,讓公眾監察。立法會秘書處應積極跟進國際發展,定期邀請獨立專家(局外人)審視守則,適時修改,與時並進。

獨立媒體(香港)及《香港獨立媒體網》聯署
2013年9月10日

獨立媒體出席立法會「公開資料及檔案政策」簡介會

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獨立媒體(香港)致力推動香港訂立《檔案法》及《資訊自由法》。

現已向香港記者協會報名出席下列工作簡介會,並會積極跟進立法會的「公開資料及檔案政策」,提交意見書,並呼籲公眾踴躍發表意見,監察政府。

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立法會邀請新聞業界出席「公開資料及檔案政策」簡介會立法會秘書處上月12日起就公開資料及檔案予公眾查閱的政策,諮詢公眾兩個月,記協認為這是正面的舉動,有助立法會改善查閱機制,方便記者工作。

因此,作為記者,你更有需要了解是次諮詢內容。立法會將舉行簡介會,解答記者的疑問,屆時秘書長陳維安將會出席。有興趣的行家可電郵至hkja@hkja.org.hk 或致電2591 0692向本會報名。

日期:2013年8月23日(周五) 下午3時

地點:立法會大樓502室

Support of legislating the Freedom of Information Law and the Archives Law

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Graphic credit: Opensource.com

中文請見此

Support of legislating the Freedom of Information Law and the Archives Law–Inmediahk’s Submission on Code on Access to Information and Archives Administration

1) We welcome the direct investigation of Code on Access to Information and Archives Administration by the Office of the Ombudsman, as it help preserves precious information for the city’s history.

2) Open government and citizen’s right to access government information had long been an important means of implementation of democratic participation; corruption prevention; allowance of citizens to understand decision-making; protection of civil rights and practice of freedom of press; and information among countries.

3) Currently, the Hong Kong government has no system regarding archives administration. With the absence of Archives Law, government officials are not obligated to preserve, manage and publish documents that are related to social policy and people’s livelihood. The precious resources and important official documents and records are unprotected, hindering both the researches of public policy or any others conducted by academic institutions or non-governmental organizations and the Investigation of news feature. It affects the city’s development directly.

4) Up until now Hong Kong still hasn’t implement a democratic political system. Hong Kong citizens do not have universal suffrage for the Chief Executive, along with the abnormal “split voting system” of the Legislative Council, the accountability of government official is now unaffected by the general public. Documents of decision-making and minutes are not only the last defense for public surveillance, but also the government’s means to gain trust.

5) The current Public Information Law has no legal force. Government departments often reply citizens and journalists with the excuse of “no related information could be provided”. Even the minutes of the Estate Management Advisory Committee under the Housing Department or the usage of certain sports venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department were not published. Such departments operate with public funds and serve the public, yet they disregard the outside world and treat public surveillance as nothing. It is absurd that some officials blatantly alter minutes and attempt to bury the truth (e.g. Mr. Tang Ying Yen Henry requested to amend the minutes of Harbour Fest). Government scandals told us again and again that a concrete law is needed in order to preserve documents properly; to maintain the openness of officials; to allow public and media surveillance; and to ensure the accountability of officials.

6) Other than monitoring government, the Public Information Law could also protect citizen’s right. In recent years, government departments, especially the Police Force, had spent a lot of public funds to trace and monitor certain citizens. Involved citizens were unable to find out that they were being traced. The disposal of such collected personal data remained unclear. In some unreasonable circumstances, the innocent people who had their privacy invaded could not seek compensation. The power of Police Force is unmonitored, making the civil rights prone to serious violation.

7) An open government allows the people to understand the usage of public funds and helps prevent corruption. For instance, the Police Force expended a lot in purchasing equipments and weapons against protesters. Media had asked for specific figures several times but the Police Force refused to disclose the details. Moreover, after the introduction of deputy secretary, political assistant and other appointed officials, the relationship between government and businesses has been even closer. Information of government projects and outsourcing should be more transparent, so as to prevent the occurrence of collusion and corruption.

8) With the development of information technology, public information could boost the development of information services. These days a lot of valuable information were controlled by different government departments. Such data were collected with public funds yet they were not shared among the public, the academia and the media. For example, Hong Kong Government has employed the LIDAR Light Detection and Ranging technology to collect a lot of local data, such that are so useful to terrain exploration, environmental detection and 3D city modeling that they could create a breakthrough of planning and mapping. The government, however, declined to share the data with universities and related industries, turning it into nothing but a pity. Also, the Environmental Protection Department owned loads of environmental information, such as pollutant emission. It refused to provide such information to environmental engineering firms, costing them a huge amount of resources to conduct private investigations. The public then lack the way to find out the real environmental status of Hong Kong. Besides, different government departments own and manage information of environment, trees, transportation, land use and census but the release of such information were limited. The applications of such were therefore obstructed. The release of such data could provoke creativity. With researches or applications (e.g. development of mobile application) by public and related industries, more industries would be created, bringing useful information and greater convenience to the people.

9) We believe that Hong Kong is in need of the legislation of the Public Information Law and the Archives Law, so as to create an open government and promote civic participation of government decision-making.

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