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The Right of Access to public documents

The Freedom of the Press Act is part of the Swedish Constitution, entitling you to a high degree of insight into all public-sector operations. Sweden is a pioneer in terms of openness and transparency for private citizens and the media.

The right of access to public documents

The right of access to documents held by public authorities and administrations is a civil right which applies to both Swedish citizens and people from other countries.

What are public documents?

A document can be described as something that contains information of some kind - for example a letter, minutes of a meeting, an e-mail, or video or tape recordings. Municipal documents can be public or non-public. Non-public document include the internal working notes prepared by a municipal official. Official documents may be classified as public or as confidential. By law, a document is public if it has been received by the municipality, is held by the municipality or has been drawn up by the municipality. All public documents that are not subject to confidentiality are available to the general public, and everyone is entitled to read them.

Why are some documents confidential?

One of the reasons for confidentiality is to protect private citizens in a social welfare context. The Secrecy Act specifies the kind of information which is to be classified as confidential. This means that the municipality, backed by the law, determines what is to be considered confidential. If you send a letter to the municipality and mark it "secret" , "confidential" or "private", it will not be regarded as privileged information, unless it is covered by the Secrecy Act.

Where are the documents?

The municipality is required to register, store and file its public documents. They must be maintained in an organized fashion so that they are easy to find. Generally speaking, the municipal senior registry clerk is responsible for noting documents in the official register, which is, itself, normally considered to be a public document.

How long does it take to get documents?

The law requires that public documents should be provided "with all possible speed". In practice, this means that they should be made available immediately. If you request material by telephone or letter, you should receive the document concerned within two days.

Can I take the documents with me?

Documents may be read on the premises and then returned. It is also possible to obtain copies. The Municipal Executive Board determines the charge made for copying documents.

Can I get documents by e-mail

The municipality is not obliged to provide access to documents by e-mail.

Can I be anonymous?

By law, you are not required to say who you are when you ask for a public document of a general nature, and you do not need to say why you want it. No one has the right to ask you these questions. If you are refused access to a document, the law states that the refusal must be in writing. If you feel that the municipality is wrong, then you can lodge an appeal with the Administrative Court of Appeal. If you feel that it takes too long to produce a document, you can lodge an appeal with the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Further points to conside

All your correspondence with the municipality will be public - for example letters, faxes, e-mails - and can be read by others. You cannot evade the principle of access to public documents by sending a letter about a municipal matter to a municipal official or a member of the Municipal Council at their home address. They are, in fact, obliged to ensure that the letter is registered by the senior registry clerk.

Personal Data Act

The Personal Data Act (PuL) is designed to protect individuals against infringement of their personal integrity in connection with the processing of personal information. All municipal committees are responsible for ensuring that personal data is treated in an appropriate manner.

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Umeå kommun
Skolgatan 31A
901 84 Umeå
090-16 10 00

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