Freedom of Information Around the World 2006: A Global Survey of Access to Government Information Laws

Privacy International, 2006

168 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2010

See all articles by David Banisar

David Banisar

ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression

Date Written: September 20, 2006

Abstract

Freedom of information is an essential right for every person. It allows individuals and groups to protect their rights. It is an important guard against abuses, mismanagement and corruption. It can also be beneficial to governments themselves – openness and transparency in the decision-making process can improve citizen trust in government actions.

FOI is now becoming widely recognized in international law. Numerous treaties, agreements and statements by international and regional bodies oblige or encourage governments to adopt laws. Cases are starting to emerge in international forums.

Nearly 70 countries around the world have now adopted comprehensive Freedom of Information Acts to facilitate access to records held by government bodies and another fifty have pending efforts. A few countries have issued decrees or used constitutional provisions. Many countries have adopted other laws that can provide for limited access including data protection laws that allow individuals to access their own records held by government agencies and private organizations, specific statutes that give rights of access in certain areas such as health, environment, government procurement and consumer protection.

Although FOI has been around for over 200 years, it is still evolving. Over half of the FOI laws have been adopted in just the last ten years. The growth in transparency is in response to demands by civil society organizations, the media and international lenders. Many of these new laws adopted innovative processes to improve access.

However, there is much work to be done to reach truly transparent government. The culture of secrecy remains strong in many countries. Many of the laws are not adequate and promote access in name only. In some countries, the laws lie dormant due to a failure to implement them properly or a lack of demand. In others, the exemptions and fees are abused by governments. Older laws need updating to reflect developments in society and technology. New laws promoting secrecy in the global war on terror have undercut access. International organizations have taken over the functions of national government but have not subjected themselves to the same rules.

Keywords: FOIA, Freedom of Information, RTI, Right to Information, Official Information, Government Transparency,

Suggested Citation

Banisar, David, Freedom of Information Around the World 2006: A Global Survey of Access to Government Information Laws (September 20, 2006). Privacy International, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1707336 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1707336

David Banisar (Contact Author)

ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression ( email )

60 Farringdon Road
London, EC1R 1UQ
United Kingdom

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