Riigikogu recordings semi-secret, for now

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Pursuant to Board of the Riigikogu decision, all excising recordings of parliamentary committees’ recordings shall be handed over to State Archives. Even so, all will not become public right away – the Public Information Act allowing restriction to access.  

Last afternoon, at the request of Vice-President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas (Centre Party), the President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor halted the plenary meeting and invited heads of all factions and committees to meet the Board of the Riigikogu.   

As then they sat together, the opinion surfaced that, from now onwards, every recording of any parliamentary committee meeting needs a separate decision if and for how long access to it ought to be restricted.

«This will not mean that all these things would be classified for a hundred years; in reality it is all up to the document that was being discussed [at a meeting],» said Mr Nestor, adding that as maximum restriction is ten years, such recordings as date from over ten years back immediately become public as they are sent to the archive.

While consensus ruled regarding trusting State Archives with the recordings, the fate of excising Riigikogu investigation committees’ recordings set off debates and spawned divisions. 

As admitted by Mr Nestor, in this issue there were differences. He suggested that as investigation committees are indeed only created in case of large-scale public interest, the recordings of such sessions ought to be available for listening without restriction. According to him, such an amendment into Riigikogu Rules of Procedure Act ought to be carried out by the new Riigikogu membership elected in March. Till then, however, the Board might issue instructions allowing access to recordings of investigation committee meetings upon reasonable interest.

Mr Nestor expressed hopes that in this regard, the Board will be able to make its decision today. «At least my understanding, hopefully supported by other Board members, is that investigation committees are only created in the case of large public interest which in itself is an argument for removing all kinds of seals,» he said.

As also assured by Vice-President of the Riigikogu Laine Randjärv, she is all for openness. «I’m of the opinion that investigative committees, which have been created in the context of heightened public interest, need to also be public pursuant to law i.e. while naturally considering personal data protection or state secret,» said Ms Randjärv. «But public disclosure is needed so that everyone may know what actually happened at the discussions. Riigikogu isn’t an ark of secrets.»