Treasure hunting: get information through Norway

At the DataHarvest+ Conference Aftenposten journalist Jan Gunnar Furuly explained why investigative journalists should request information through Norway: “Thanks to the good FOI law you can search many EU documents via Norway.”

Gold- and silvermines in Hungary, Jan Luyken, 1682 - Rijksmuseum

Gold- and silvermines in Hungary, Jan Luyken, 1682 – Rijksmuseum

Norway has freedom of information laws [pdf] that puts government information and data in the public domain. Most European countries don’t have such developed FOI laws. Journalists from those countries can use the Norwegian databases as an entrance to the information they need.

Which information can I access?

Many EU documents can be obtained via Norway, since the country is an EFTA member and fully participates in the EUs internal market. So besides access to information and data concerning Norway, you can also access information about your own country.

For instance, all changes in European legislations are send out to all member states and countries involved. For many laws this means Norway gets a copy too. Think files concerning public meetings – courts, parliaments, agencies or public organizations meetings; court and police documents; and public registries and databases.

Where do I start?

A good starting point would be the Electronic Public Records of Norway (EPR). There you can search and select and request data, files and information. You’re probably best off using the advanced search option. For all non-Norwegian speakers, theres a language button which translates the interface to English for you.

To succesfully search the Electronic Public Records of Norway you need to translate your query to Norwegian. Look at Wikipedia for Norwegian country names or use this list with country names. Other than country names you can use Google Translate to get the search phrase you need.

Through the EPR you can select up to 70 different documents and files for each request. Just add them to your “basket” and than you can order the files you selected by submitting your request. After that your request will be sent to the respective government agency which will either reply with the information requested or deny access. Read more about this process at the EPR help page, the FAQ-page might be helpful too.

When your request is refused you ccan complain – you can get some help doing that at the – Norwegian text only – site Offentlighet. They also have – again Norwegian only – standard complaint letters.

Some other valuable links