PIRATES OF DENMARK KEEPERS OF TRANSPARENCY
While Denmark is well known for the openness of its society, Danish government has revolutionized protests by intending to change the law on Freedom of Information and restrictions on access to government documents. Under the proposal the Minister of Justice has brought to the parliament a lot of documents characterized as ‘political advisory’ and would not be available to the media.
The whole situation motivated people, organizations, journalists and Pirates of Denmark to participated in a demonstration that was held on 15 May 2013 at Christiansborg Slotsplads, right outside of the Danish parliament. Pirates attracted attention after two of them dressed in purple spandex suits and stood outside the building holding Pirate flags in their hands like the guardians of transparency.
Emil OW Kirkegaard, member of the Board of PPDK told the Pirate Times about it: “Since one of PPDK’s core policies is that government transparency is important, it was an obvious choice to take part in this demonstration. This is obviously a step in the wrong direction. PPDK made a press release that noted that the party is for openness in the administration and that this law is a dangerous move in the opposite direction.”
Pirate Times: What is the basic thrust of the proposed changes?
Emil OW Kirkegaard: The basic thrust of the proposed changes is: It will be harder to use freedom of information acts to force official bodies to disclose information. The details are complicated. But two Danish journalists have spent a lot of time on the issue demonstrating how quite a few recent scandals in Danish politics would never have seen the light of the day with the new law. The politicians (particularly the Minister of Justice) claim that they need more freedom to discuss policies with their employees, but it looks more like that they want to avoid scandals. They have offered no concrete examples as to why this should be the case. It will be a sad day for Danish democracy if this law passes, which it looks like it will do.
Pirate Times: How many people are against this new law?
Emil OW Kirkegaard: There is a large public movement against the proposed changes, and a popular list of signatures is at ~83,000 signatures right now. Considering the population of Denmark is about 5,500,000 and it is a very dry subject, this is a large list of signatures. About 1.5% of the total Danish population. Their Facebook page also has 10,000 likes. This law is under fire by journalists from all over the world. It was a demonstration arranged to protest against a proposed change to the Danish equivalent of the Freedom of Information act.
Pirate Times: Whose idea was to appear with these purple suits?
Emil OW Kirkegaard: The purple suits were Rolf Jørgensen’s idea, who is also a member of the board. He is one of the two people in the suits. We also distributed eye patches for free to tourists and others who wanted them. Our stunt gave us a bit of media attention, as quite a few Danish newspapers mentioned us.
Pirate Times: When PPDK was founded? How many members has it got today?
Emil OW Kirkegaard: PPDK was founded in 2009 and today has 200 members. There are 6 members on the Board: chairman Andreas Petri Petersen, vice chairman Ole Husgaard, treasurer Peter Bjørn Hansen and 3 other members Emil OW Kirkegaard, Thomas Petri Petersen, Rolf Jørgensen.
Pirate Times: Have you taken part in elections?
Emil OW Kirkegaard: None. It is not feasible to take part in elections because of the difficult conditions of the Danish law on the subject. One needs to collect 20,500 signatures that include the entire CPR-number thus making it open to abuse, and making it harder to collect from citizens. All signatures must be collected within 18 months. Then, one has to deliver them to the local authorities where the citizen lives (no central agency), which is impractical and expensive. Each of the communes must verify the signature. Then they send it back to the citizen himself (not to us), and the citizen must then mail it to us for it to count. We estimate that it would take at least 100,000 DKK to just get on the ballot with this system. The relevant Danish minister has promised to change the law by “early summer”, but nothing has happened so far. Before that happens, we are not able to run for the national parliament or the EU parliament.
Featured image: Public Domain