Freedom of Information in France - Law and Practice
D. Dragos, B. Marseille and P. Kovac (eds.), The Laws of Transparency in Action: A European Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan), 2018, Forthcoming
EGPA 2017 CONFERENCE Milan, Italy, 28th August-1st September 2017
42 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017 Last revised: 6 Oct 2017
Date Written: September 7, 2017
In France, a 1978 statute granted every person the right to obtain communication of documents held by an administration within the framework of its public service mission, regardless of their form or medium. This marked a stark break away from a tradition of administrative secrecy and sought to improve the relations between the French State and its citizens.
As in other jurisdictions, the French legislation on freedom of information (FOI) aims to find a balance between the right to access public information (a democratic requirement and a prerequisite for the exercise of fundamental rights), and other competing interests (privacy, competition and public order and security). This equilibrium is constantly reshaped under the influence of technological developments and of an increasing commodification of public information. Changes and adaptation occur either through legislative changes (such as the 2016 statute on “Republique numérique”) as well as in practice, e.g. through the combined interaction of an independent authority – the Commission d’accès aux documents administratifs (CADA) – and the French administrative judge, the Council of State.
This paper examines the law and the practice of FOI in France. Besides a short historical account, it will be based on classic doctrinal scholarship, strongly supplemented by an empirical investigation, involving interviews with different actors in the field (especially members of the CADA and legislators etc.) and the analysis of empirical data available in official sources such as annual reports of the CADA and of the Council of State.
Part of a broader research undertaken by Professors Dacian C. Dragos, Polona Kovač and Bert Marseille on transparency in Europe, this paper assesses the effectiveness of the FOI in France, from an institutional and practical perspective.
Keywords: Freedom of information, transparency, France, Open data
JEL Classification: K23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation