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Law No. 123 /1998,

on Access to Information on the Environment

May 13, 1998

The Parliament has resolved on this Law of the Czech Republic:

Section 1

Purpose of the Law

(1) The Law stipulates

a) the conditions of exercising of the right to timely and complete information on the state of the environment and natural resources Art.35 par. 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms published by resolution of the Presidium of the Czech National Council under No.2/1993 Coll.) such as is available to state administration authorities, municipal authorities and juridical persons established, controlled or charged by them,

b) public access to the information on the state of the environment and natural resources which these authorities have at their disposal and specifies the basic conditions under which access to information is provided.

(2) Provision of the data obtained for statistical purposes and the provision of statistical information are governed by a special law. Law No.89/1995 Coll., on the National Statistical Service.)

Section 2

Definitions of Terms

For the purposes of this Law

a) information on the state of the environment and natural resources (hereinafter the ”information”) means information in written, video or audio forms, computer data carries or in another technically feasible form containing evidence of, especially

1. the state and development of the environment, of the causes and consequences of this state,

2. activities in preparation which could lead to a change of the state of the environment and information about the measures taken by the authorities responsible for environmental protection or by other persons in preventing or remedying damage to the environment,

3. the state of water, the atmosphere, soil, living organisms and ecosystems, further, the information about the effects of activities on the environment, about any substances, noise and radiation emitted into the environment and about the consequences of such emissions,

4. the utilization of the natural resources and its consequences on the environment and also the data necessary for the evaluation of the causes and consequences of this utilization and its effects on living organisms and on society,

5. the effects of constructions, activities, technologies and products on the environment,

6. administrative proceedings in environmental matters, environmental impact assessments, petitions and complaints relating to these matters and attending to them and also the information included in written documents relating, especially, to the protected parts of nature and other parts of the environment protected according to special regulations,

7. economic and financial analyses used in decision making in matters relating to the environment, if they were provided from public means,

8. international, state, regional and local strategies and programs, plans of action, etc., in which the Czech Republic participates and reports on their fulfillment,

9. international obligations relating to the environment and the fulfillment of commitments ensuing from international treaties by which the Czech Republic is bound,

10. sources of information about the state of the environment and the natural resources;

b) the state administration bodies and municipal authorities and juridical persons established, controlled or empowered by them (hereinafter the ”authorities”)

1. the state administration bodies and municipal authorities engaged in tasks aimed at environmental protection, especially the state administration bodies of the protection of the atmosphere, water management authorities, nature protection authorities, authorities of the state administration in waste management, the state forest administration authority arable land protection authorities. Ministry of the Environment, administration of protected landscape areas and national parks, the Czech Environmental Inspection, district authorities, municipalities.)

2. nonprofit and contributory organizations that had been established by the authorities mentioned in paragraph 1, E.g. Výzkumný Ústav vodohospodářský TGM (T.G.Masaryk Water Management Research Institute), Český geologický Ústav (Czech Geological Institute), Agentura ochrany přírody (Nature Protection Agency).) and other juridical persons established, controlled or charged by these authorities and those which collect, process or keep information about the environment,

3. other state administration bodies and municipal authorities or nonprofit and contributory organizations that had been established by these authorities and juridical persons established, controlled or empowered by these bodies, namely subject to their fulfillment of tasks in the field of environmental protection or if, within their activity, they collect, process or keep information about the environment;

c) by making information accessible through providing it, i.e. handing it over in oral, telephone, telegraph, written or other technically feasible form, to the individual juridical or physical persons who applied for it (hereinafter the ”applicant”) and also information retrieval by these persons by means of perusal of written documents or other sets of information, making abstracts, transcripts, or copies on site, i.e., as a rule, at the head offices or other premises of the authorities. The information about the environment is also made accessible through the authorities’ own editorial and publishing activities.

Section 3

Requests for the Provision of Information

(1) For the purpose of obtaining information about the environment the applicant can ask the body to make the information about the environment accessible. He need not give grounds for his application. The request can be made in the oral, written, telephone, telegraph, fax or other technically feasible form. In cases of oral, telegraph, telephone or fax applications or applications sent in another electronic form the body will require their written or oral completion to the record. The body can determine an adequate term for the completion and discontinue the proceedings. It must be obvious from the application what should the information which is to be given relate to. It must be clear from the application who submitted it.

(2) In case of a request that is unreasonable or formulated in too general a manner, within 15 days from the receipt of the request the applicant is invited to make his request more specific. The invitation must specify in what direction the application is to be made more specific. The applicant is obliged to specify this application without needless delay, at the latest within 15 days. Unless the applicant submits a specification of his request in the required direction within 15 days of the delivery of the invitation, it is understood as he has abandoned his request.

(3) In the case of an application submitted by telephone, unless it can be discharged without delay, the authority is entitled to require it to be sent in written form. The provision on making the request more specific applies to this case in the pertinent manner.

Section 4

A Request Submitted to an Authority Lacking the Relevant Competence

In case a request is submitted to a public authority which does not hold the information requested, it is its duty to inform the applicant as promptly as possible, at the latest within 15 days from the receipt of the request, that it cannot provide the required information for to this reason. If possible, it will also inform the applicant about the correct place where to submit the request.

Section 5

Published Information

(1) If the request is directed towards providing released information, the public authority can first, but at the latest within 15 days, instead of providing information, give the applicant information enabling him to look up and obtain the released information. This does not apply, if the applicant stated that he had no possibility of obtaining released information in another way.

(2) If the applicant insists on the released information to be provided directly, the public authority shall give him the information.

Section 6

The Way and Form of Providing Access to Information

(1) In the request the applicant can suggest a form, or way which are to be used for providing access to the information. If he requests information to be made accessible on a technical data carrier, he is obliged to cover the cost or to enclose with the request a technically usable data carrier.

(2) Unless the applicant specifies the form or way according to paragraph 1, or if such form or way cannot be used for serious reasons, such way and form of making the information accessible will be selected taking account of the fulfillment of the purpose of the application for making the information accessible and making the optimum use of it by the applicant. If there are doubts, first of all, the form and way are used which the applicant made use of for submitting the application.

Section 7

The Period Within Which Access to Information shall be Provided

(1) The information shall be made available as soon as possible, at the latest within 30 days of the request, unless special circumstances justify an extension of this period, in the extreme case up to 60 days.. The applicant shall be informed about such circumstances and about any extension of the period before the expiration of the 30-day period .

(2) In the case mentioned in Section 3 par. 2 of this Law the period for releasing the information begins to run on the day of the delivery of the duly specified request.

Section 8

Restriction of Access to Information

(1) Making the information accessible will be refused, if it is excluded by the regulations

a) on facts kept secret in the state interest, Law No.102/1971 Coll., on the protection of state secrets, as amended by subsequent regulations.)

b) on the protection of personal Law No.256/1992 Coll., on the protection of personal data in information systems.) or individual data2) and on the protection of personality, Law No.40/1964 Coll., the Civil Code, as amended by subsequent regulations.)

c) on the protection of intellectual property, Law No.527/1990 Coll., on inventions, industrial patterns and innovations, in the wording of Law No.519/1991 Coll.)

d) on the protection of trade secrets. Section 17 and subs. of Law No.513/1991 Coll., the Civil Code, as amended by subsequent regulations.)

(2) Furthermore, the information will not be made accessible, if

a) it was submitted to the public authority by a person who was not legally mandated to do so and who did not give prior written consent to making this information accessible,

b) by making information accessible on the place of occurrence of especially protected species of plants, animals or minerals where there was a threat of their undue endangerment, damage or disturbance,

c) the applicant demands the information provided within a preparatory proceedings (investigation) in criminal matters, Sections 160 to 178 of Law No.141/1961 Coll., on criminal judicial proceedings (the Code of Criminal Procedure), as amended by subsequent regulations.) or the information relates to unfinished proceedings and invalid decisions on offences and other administrative misdemeanors,

d) the application was formulated indistinctly or too generally and the applicant, although called upon to do so, did not complete it according to Section 3 par. 2 of this Law, or it is an anonymous application.

(3) Further, making the information accessible can be denied, if

a) it relates to data not yet processed or not yet assessed,

b) the application is formulated in an evidently provocative or obstructive way,

c) the applicant has demonstrably the required information at his disposal already.

(4) Making accessible information marked as trade secret is not a breach of a trade secret, if

a) the required information relates to the effect of the entrepreneur's operational activity on the environment,

b) there is an imminent danger to human health and the environment,

c) the required information was obtained from the means of public budgets.

(5) Providing information on the originator of an activity polluting or otherwise endangering or damaging the environment, included in a valid decision about an offence or criminal act, does not constitute a breach of the right to the protection of the personality.

(6) If possible, the required information is released after excluding secret facts. The applicant must always be informed about such an intervention and the reason for it on the information released.

(7) The right to refuse access to information persists only for the duration of the reason for the refusal.

Section 9

The Decision about the Refusal to Release Information

(1) If the release of information is refused, the public authority will issue the decision about its refusal to release the information. This decision is issued by the authority which refused to release the information, or the authority which is superior to the juridical person which refused to release the information. This decision must be issued within 30 days from the delivery of the request.

(2) The decision is not issued in case of an anonymous request or if the applicant, according to Section 3 par. 2 of this Law, did not complete his request, although invited to do so duly and in time.

(3) Unless the authority provided information within the set term or issued the decision, it is understood that it decided to refuse the information.

(4) Similar procedure as in paragraph 3 applies in case, when the applicant does not agree on the exclusion of secret facts before releasing the information.

Section 10

More Detailed Conditions of Providing Access to Information

(1) The information is made accessible during working hours of the competent authorities, or during special set working hours.

(2) Everybody has the right to look into documents and make abstracts or transcripts of them. Everybody has also the right, if possible with regard to the operation, to have copies of documents made.

(3) The information is made accessible, as a rule, free of charge.

However, the authorities are entitled to require the compensation the amount of which must not exceed the costs of making of copies, of providing technical data carriers and the dispatch of information to the applicant.

Section 11

The Duty of Other Persons to Provide Access to Information

A special law can provide for the cases, when another person is obliged to provide access to information. E.g. Section 7 par. 1 letters h) and k) of Law No.309/1991 Coll., on the protection of the air against pollutants (The Clean Air Act), as amended by subsequent regulations.) A special law can also provide for different ways and conditions of providing access to information. E.g. ČNR Law No.244/1992 Coll., Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). ) However, the right to the information about the environment according to this Law can be neither restricted nor precluded.

(1) The Government of the Czech Republic discusses and approves the report on the state of the environment of the Czech Republic once a year.

(2) After discussion and approval, the Government of the Czech Republic submits the report on the state of the environment to the Parliament for discussion.

(3) This report must be released at the latest within three months from its approval.

Section 13

Promotion of Environmental Education and Environmental Awareness among the Public

(1) The Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and other central authorities, shall promote environmental education and environmental awareness among the public, with special emphasis on the teaching of children and youth.

(2) The Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport creates, especially, the conditions for

a) the creation and use of a system of acquiring basic knowledge on the environment and its protection, proceeding from the principles of sustainable development and from active forms of teaching, culture and obtaining information, through governmental and non-governmental organizations,

b) the authorities to provide efficient help to the public in ensuring access to information about the environment,

c) the creation of conditions for the promotion of environmental education and environmental awareness within the sphere of activity of state administration authorities.

Section 14

The Use of the Regulations on Administrative Proceedings and Judicial Protection

(1) The regulations on administrative proceedings Law No.71/1967 Coll., on administrative proceedings (administrative regulations).) are used in the proceedings according to Section 9 pars. 1, 3 and 4 of this Law and for the calculation of the periods.

(2) The decision on a refusal to provide information or on an individual part of it being secret can be challenged by court action after all regular remedial means have been exhausted. Section 247 et seq. of Law No.99/1963 Coll., the Civil Judiciary Procedure, as amended by subsequent regulations.)

Section 15

The relation to other legal regulations

If special legal regulations Especially ČNR Law No.114/1992 Coll., on the protection of nature and the landscape, as amended by subsequent regulations, Law. No.309/1991 Coll., ČNR Law No.389/1991 Coll., on state administration of the protection of the air and fines for polluting it, as amended by subsequent regulations, Law No.138/1973 Coll., on water (the water law), as amended by subsequent regulations, ČNR Law No.130/1974 Coll., on state administration in water management, as amended by subsequent regulations, Law No.125/1997 Coll., on waste, ČNR Law No.62/1988 Coll., on geological works and on the Czech Geological Bureau, as amended by subsequent regulations, Law No.44/1988 on mining activity, explosives and on the state mining administration, as amended by subsequent regulations, Law No.50/1967 Coll., on zoning and building regulations (the building law), as amended by subsequent regulations, Law No.289/1995 Coll., on forests and amendments and supplements to some of the laws (the Forest Law), ČNR Law No.334/1992 Coll., on the protection of the agricultural lands, as amended by ČNR Law No.10/1993 Coll., Law No.20/1966 Coll., the public health care law, as amended by subsequent regulations, Law No.18/1977 Coll., on the utilization of nuclear power and ionizing radiation for peaceful purposes (the atomic law) and the amendments and supplements to some laws, and the regulations issued for their execution.) provide also for granting information which is the subject of an amendment of this Law, the extent of information set by this Law cannot be restricted.

Section 16

Repeal Provisions

The following are hereby repealed:

1. Section 14 of Law No.171/1992 Coll., on the environment,

2. Section 72 par. 2 of the Czech National Council Law No.114/1992 Coll., on the protection of nature and the landscape, as amended by subsequent regulations; at the same time, in the existing paragraph 1 the numbering of paragraphs is cancelled.

Section 247 et seq. of Law No. 99/1963 Coll., the Civil Rules of Court, as amended by subsequent regulations.

Section 17

Effectiveness

This Law becomes effective on July 1, 1998.

Zeman, in his own hand

Havel, in his own hand

Tošovský, in his own hand