Spin Control and Freedom of Information: Lessons for the United Kingdom from Canada
34 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2008
Date Written: December 20, 2003
The United Kingdom's Freedom of Information Act, which goes into force in 2005, is intended to empower citizens by granting them a right to obtain government documents. But the law will be implemented by a government that has developed highly centralized structures for controlling the communications activity of government departments. How will the revolutionary potential of the law be squared with the government's concern for "message discipline"? Canada's experience in implementing the Access to Information Act of 1982 may provide the answer. The Canadian law was intended to provide a check on executive authority, but government departments soon developed internal practices and technologies to minimize its disruptive potential. In practice, these internal practices and technologies significantly restrict the right of access to information for certain types of stakeholders, such as journalists or representatives of political parties.
Keywords: freedom of information, transparency, secrecy, right to information, United Kingdom, Canada
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