Bettel vows to improve press access to information
(Updated with response from prime minister's spokesperson in fifth and sixth paragraph)
Proposals to address longstanding complaints about lack of access to government information will be brought forward in the near future, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel reportedly told a meeting of Luxembourg's journalists' association on Thursday, without specifying any concrete measures.
Bettel, who also heads the country's media and communications ministry, acknowledged restrictions on public documents are an issue, according to a statement issued by the Association Luxembourgeoise des Journalistes Professionnels (ALJP) summarising the meeting.
Some civil servants had "wrongly interpreted" the contents of the so-called 'Bettel circular', an internal memo he sent out to all ministries in 2016, the prime minister is reported to have added. The circular forbids any civil servants from speaking to the press other than official designated spokespeople.
The Grand Duchy in 2018 was one of the last in the European Union to permit citizens to apply for access to government documents, and the law has many restrictions that makes it hard to actually obtain documents. That law would soon be revisited, Bettel reportedly told the journalists' association during Thursday's meeting, according to the ALJP.
A spokeswoman for Bettel did not confirm whether any specific measures might follow but added that he "took note of a number of points presented by the ALJP".
The prime minister "re-confirmed an openness to potentially revise the current methods of working in regards of access to information if and where deemed necessary... together with the Press Council", Bettel's spokeswoman Liz Thielen told The Luxembourg Times in an email.
ALJP criticised a press law passed in July for failing to mention problems faced by journalists' attempting to access information and not including demands to make it mandatory for authorities to provide information to reporters.
The EU even expressed its concern over public access to official government documents in Luxembourg and “selective” disclosure of information in a report published in July.
Luxembourg dropped three places to 20th in the most recent annual report on press freedom by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) group. Since the start of Bettel's time in office in 2013, Luxembourg has dropped from 4th to 20th in the press freedom index.