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Home affairs minister Piet Hein Donner is to press ahead with restricting the freedom of information laws (known as wob) because, he says, they cost too much and are being misused by journalists on fishing expeditions. The legislation gives private citizens the right to see government documents and is regularly used by journalists to find out more about government policy and decision-making. Donner says 'dozens' of civil servants are kept permanently occupied answering questions and providing documentation. 'That is the result of journalists firing off random shots in the hope of hitting something,' he said earlier this month. 'That is not an efficient use of time.' Donner plans to allow officials to turn down 'improper' requests and reduce the scope of broad information searches, in consultation with the person requesting the information.
His definition of citizen is a bit puzzling, as it excludes journalists. From this perspective, it is not the press' job to be a check on the government. Only individuals not seeking to publish should have access to information. This is a surprising move from the Dutch government, as only six years ago it was ranked in first place in a press freedom index conducted by Reporters without Borders.