The committee recalls the importance of the principle of transparency,
including access to information held by public authorities, for
democracy and good governance in general and for the fight against
corruption in particular. It considers legitimate, well-defined
national security interests as valid grounds for withholding information.
At the same time, access to information forms a crucial component
of national security, by enabling democratic participation, sound
policy formulation and public scrutiny of State action.
The committee welcomes the adoption in June 2013, by a large
assembly of experts from international organisations, civil society
and academia and of national security practitioners, of the “Global
Principles on National Security and the Right to Information” designed
to give guidance to legislators and relevant officials throughout
the world with a view to reaching an appropriate balance between
public interests both in national security and in access to information.
It supports the “Global Principles” and calls on the competent authorities of
all member States of the Council of Europe to take them into account
in modernising their legislation and practice concerning access
The committee stresses a number of particularly important
principles, including the need for robust oversight over the activities
of secret services, the protection of bona fide disclosures of wrongdoings
by “whistle-blowers” and the availability of a “public interest
override” as a safeguard against overly broad exceptions from the
general rule of free accessibility of all information held by public
authorities. Information concerning the responsibility of State
agents who have committed serious human rights violations such as
murder, enforced disappearance, torture or abduction, does not deserve
to be protected as secret.