Freedom of information laws by country
Freedom of Information laws (FOI laws) allow access by the general public to data held by national governments. They establish a "right-to-know" legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions. Also variously referred to as open records, or sunshine laws (in the United States), governments are typically bound by a duty to publish and promote openness. In many countries there are constitutional guarantees for the right of access to information, but these are usually unused if specific support legislation does not exist.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Legislation by country
- 2.1 Albania
- 2.2 Armenia
- 2.3 Australia
- 2.4 Azerbaijan
- 2.5 Bangladesh
- 2.6 Belgium
- 2.7 Belize
- 2.8 Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 2.9 Brazil
- 2.10 Bulgaria
- 2.11 Canada
- 2.12 Cayman Islands
- 2.13 Chile
- 2.14 People's Republic of China
- 2.15 Colombia
- 2.16 Cook Islands
- 2.17 Croatia
- 2.18 Czech Republic
- 2.19 Denmark
- 2.20 Dominican Republic
- 2.21 Ecuador
- 2.22 Estonia
- 2.23 Europe
- 2.24 Finland
- 2.25 France
- 2.26 Georgia
- 2.27 Germany
- 2.28 Greece
- 2.29 Hong Kong
- 2.30 Hungary
- 2.31 Iceland
- 2.32 India
- 2.33 Ireland
- 2.34 Israel
- 2.35 Italy
- 2.36 Jamaica
- 2.37 Japan
- 2.38 Latvia
- 2.39 Malta
- 2.40 Liberia
- 2.41 Macedonia
- 2.42 Malaysia
- 2.43 Maldives
- 2.44 Mexico
- 2.45 Montenegro
- 2.46 Netherlands
- 2.47 New Zealand
- 2.48 Nigeria
- 2.49 Norway
- 2.50 Pakistan
- 2.51 Paraguay
- 2.52 Poland
- 2.53 Republic of Moldova
- 2.54 Romania
- 2.55 Rwanda
- 2.56 Serbia
- 2.57 Slovakia
- 2.58 Slovenia
- 2.59 South Africa
- 2.60 South Korea
- 2.61 Sweden
- 2.62 Switzerland
- 2.63 Taiwan (Republic of China)
- 2.64 Thailand
- 2.65 Trinidad and Tobago
- 2.66 Turkey
- 2.67 Uganda
- 2.68 Ukraine
- 2.69 United Kingdom
- 2.70 United States
- 2.71 Uruguay
- 2.72 Zimbabwe
- 3 Pending legislation by country
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Most freedom of information laws exclude the private sector from their jurisdiction thus information held by the private sector cannot be accessed as a legal right. This limitation has serious implications because the private sector performs many functions which were previously the domain of the public sector. As a result, information that was previously public is now within the private sector, and the private contractors cannot be forced to disclose information.
Other countries are working towards introducing such laws, and many regions of countries with national legislation have local laws. For example, all U.S. states have laws governing access to public documents belonging to the state and local taxing entities. Additionally, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act governs record management of documents in the possession of the federal government.
A related concept is open meetings legislation, which allows access to government meetings, not just to the records of them. In many countries, privacy or data protection laws may be part of the freedom of information legislation; the concepts are often closely tied together in political discourse.
A basic principle behind most freedom of information legislation is that the burden of proof falls on the body asked for information, not the person asking for it. The person making the request does not usually have to give an explanation for their actions, but if the information is not disclosed a valid reason has to be given.
Legislation by country
In Albania, the constitution of 1998 guarantees the right of access to information; the legislation for supporting this is Ligji nr. 119/2014,Për të drejtën e informimit (Law no. 8119/2014, On the right to information). The law regulates the right of access to information being produced or held by public sector. The rules contained in this law are designated to ensure the public access to information, in the framework of assuming the rights and freedoms of the individual in practice, as well as establishing views on the state and society situation.This law aims also at encouraging integrity, transparency and accountability of the public sector bodies. Every person shall, where deemed that the rights provided for in this law have been violated, be entitled to file a complaint administratively with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner. http://idp.al/index.php/sq/
The Law on Freedom of Information was unanimously approved by the Parliament on 23 September 2003 and went into force in November 2003.
There is similar legislation in all states and territories:
- Australian Capital Territory, the Freedom of Information Act 1989
- New South Wales, the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009
- Northern Territory, the Information Act 2003
- Queensland, the Right to Information Act 2009
- South Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1991
- Tasmania, the Right to Information Act 2009
- Victoria, the Freedom of Information Act 1982
- Western Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1992
In Azerbaijan, a Law on Access to Information was approved in 2005. It has gone into effect. Previously in 1998 there was accepted Law on Freedom on Information, but the Law of 2005 provided more detailed and secured regulation for access to official information.
On October 21, 2008, the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh issued in the Bangladesh Gazette the Right to Information Ordinance (No. 50 of 2008), based loosely on the Indian Right to Information Act, 2005. The Ordinance was passed by the current government of Bangladesh in the first session of this parliament on March 29, 2009.
Article 32 of the Constitution was amended in 1993 to include a right of access to documents held by the government.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (short: BiH), was the first country in the Balkan region to adopt the Freedom of Informationan Act. Freedom of Access to Information Act or FOIA - was adopted by the Parliament Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 17 November 2000. Both federal entities - the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina - passed freedom of information laws in 2001, the Freedom of Access to Information Act for the Republika Srpska and Freedom of Access to Information Act for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina respectively.
The FOIA Act changed on the BiH state level two times. The first alteration was passed in 2006, enabling stronger legal protection within the framework of administrative law of BiH. The second alteration was passed in December 2009, which enforced legal penalties for prescribed violations.
In Brazil, the Article 5, XXXIII, of the Constitution sets that "everyone shall have the right to receive information of his own interest or of public interest from public entities, which shall be given within the time prescribed by law". Also, article 22 of the Federal law nº 8.159/1991 grants the right to "full access to public documents". A statute passed in 2011 and that will enter into force in 2012 (Federal Law 12.527/2011, promulgated on 28 November 2011) regulates the manner and the timetable for the information to be given by the State.
In Bulgaria, the Access to Public Information Act was passed in 2000, following a 1996 recommendation from the Constitutional Court to implement such a law.
In Canada, the Access to Information Act allows citizens to demand records from federal bodies. The act came into force in 1983, under the Pierre Trudeau government, permitting Canadians to retrieve information from government files, establishing what information could be accessed, mandating timelines for response. This is enforced by the Information Commissioner of Canada.
There is also a complementary Privacy Act that was introduced in 1983. The purpose of the Privacy Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a federal government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information. It is a Crown copyright. Complaints for possible violations of the Act may be reported to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Canadian access to information laws distinguish between access to records generally and access to records that contain personal information about the person making the request. Subject to exceptions, individuals have a right of access to records that contain their own personal information under the Privacy Act but the general public does not have a right of access to records that contain personal information about others under the Access to Information Act. Each province and territory in Canada has its own access to information legislation. In many cases, this is also the provincial public sector privacy legislation. For example:
- Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Alberta)
- Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Manitoba)
- Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Nova Scotia)
- Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Ontario)
- Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Saskatchewan)
- Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information (Quebec)
From 1989 to 2008, requests made to the federal government were catalogued in the Coordination of Access to Information Requests System.
A 393-page report released in September 2008, sponsored by several Canadian newspaper groups, compares Canada’s Access to Information Act to the FOI laws of the provinces and of 68 other nations.
This section is outdated.(February 2010)
The Freedom of Information Law was passed in 2007 and was brought into force in January 2009.
In Chile, article 8 of the Constitution provides for the freedom of information. A law titled Law on Access to Public Information (Ley de Acceso a la Información Pública) took effect on April 20, 2009.
People's Republic of China
In April 2007, the State Council of the People's Republic of China promulgated the "Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Open Government Information" (中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例), which came into effect on May 1, 2008.
The Colombian constitution grants the right of access to public information through Law 57 of 1985 which thereby mandates the publishing of acts and official documents. This is implemented and applies to documents that belong to official facilities (offices or the like). Additionally there is the anti corruption statement of Law 190 of 1955 also known as anti corruption act which in its 51st article mandates public offices to list in visible area all the contracts and purchases made by month. The latter taking place slowly. A more modern law, the "Ley de transparencia y del derecho de acceso a la información pública nacional" its at its final stages.
Article 23 of the constitution states that "Every person has the right to present petitions to the authorities for the general or private interest and to secure their prompt resolution. The legislative body may regulate the presentation of petitions to private organizations in order to guarantee fundamental rights."
This article justifies the existence of a jurisdictional mechanism known a petition action. This action is regulated by the law 1755 of 2015 and is considered by the Colombian Judicial Doctrine as a fundamental human right. According to the law all petitions should be fully addressed in 15 business days. If not addressed the official in charge of resolving the petition may be charged with misconduct.
In the Czech Republic, the Zákon č. 106/1999 Sb., o svobodném přístupu k informacím (Act No. 106/1999 Coll. on Free Access to Information) covers the "state agencies, territorial self-administration authorities and public institutions managing public funds" as well as any body authorised by the law to reach legal decisions relating to the public sector, to the extent of such authorisation.
In Denmark, the Access to Public Administration Files Act of 1985 applies to most public agencies, and an unusual clause extends coverage to most private or public energy suppliers.
Hipólito Mejía approved Ley No.200-04 - Ley General de Libre Acceso a la Información Pública (Law number 200-04 - Law on Access to Information) on 28 July 2004, which allows public access to information from the government and private organizations that receive public money to conduct state business. Rough drafts and projects that are not part of an administrative procedure are not included.
In Ecuador, the Transparency and Access to Information Law of 2004 declares that the right of access to information is guaranteed by the state.
In Estonia, the Public Information Act of 2000 extends to all "holders of information", which is clarified as being all government and local government bodies, legal persons in public law and legal persons in private law if they are performing public duties (providing health, education etc.).
In matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment, the Aarhus convention grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice in governmental decision-making processes. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities.
Council of Europe
The recognition of the right to access to public information under Article 10 (including "freedom (..) to receive (..) information") of the European Convention on Human Rights was one of subjects in Guerra v. Italy case before the European Court of Human Rights in 1998. The majority considered Article 10 was not applicable to the complaint. However, the court found that in the specific case, which included living near a high-risk factory, not providing information was in violation of Article 8 (respect to private and family life). Besides, two judges expressed a dissent on applicability of Article 10, and further six judges reserved a possibility, that in other circumstances, right to access to information could be protected by Article 10.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has considered in 1996, that "public access to clear and full information on this subject [Chernobyl disaster]—and many others for that matter—must be viewed as a basic human right". In 2009, CoE Convention on Access to Official Documents was opened for signature.
Right of access to documents of the Union
Article 42 CFR and Article 15 TFEU give ″[a]ny citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, [...] a right of access to documents of the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union, whatever their medium." It follows from Article 15 TFEU that this right is "subject to the principles and the conditions to be defined" in legislation.
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents further defines this right of access to documents of the three institutions; for most other EU bodies and agencies, there is a provision in the legal act establishing them which makes Regulation No 1049/2001 applicable to them as well. In some other cases, specific rules apply (e.g. to the EESC, the CoR, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors and the ECB).] "Document" is defined broadly and it is assumed that all documents, even if classified, may be subject to right of access unless it falls under one of the exceptions. If access is refused, the applicant is allowed a confirmatory request. A complaint against a refusal can be made with the European Ombudsman and/or an appeal can be brought before the European General Court.
Re-use of public sector information
In addition, Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information sets out the rules and practices for accessing public sector information resources for further exploitation.
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Access to Environmental Information
Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and Council provides for citizens of each country to have freedom of access to information on the environment, in line with the requirements of the Aarhus Convention. Governments are required to transcribe the directive into national legislation (for example, in the United Kingdom, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Directive 95/46/EC, the Data Protection directive, provides a variety of rights in relation to personal data, including a right of access. This has been transcribed into national legislation through, for example, the Data Protection Act 1998 (United Kingdom) and the Data Protection 2003 (Ireland).
In Finland, the Laki yleisten asiakirjain julkisuudesta 9.2.1951/83 (Act on the Openness of Public Documents of 1951) established the openness of all records and documents in the possession of officials of the state, municipalities, and registered religious communities. Exceptions to the basic principle could only be made by law, or by an executive order for specific enumerated reasons such as national security. The openness of unsigned draft documents was not mandated, but up to the consideration of the public official. This weakness of the law was removed when the law was revised in the 1990s. The revised law, the Laki viranomaisten toiminnan julkisuudesta 21.5.1999/621 (Act on the Openness of Government Activities of 1999), called in short "Publicity Act" (Finnish: Julkisuuslaki) also extended the principle of openness to corporations that perform legally mandated public duties, such as pension funds and public utilities, and to computer documents.
The Publicity Act establishes a process by which any person may access any record in possession of an authority. The person may ask the authority for the document in person or in writing. When making the request, the requester beeds to specify the document so that it can be identufied. However, the authority is liable to assist the person with its document registers and indices in this task. After receiving the request, the authority has two weeks to give the document. If the decision is negative, and document is withheld, the requester may appeal to the administrative court. The document may be given orally, for reading and copying in the authority's premises or as an electronic or paper copy, as requested by the person. However, the copying may be declined if it woukd be unfeasible because of the large number of documents or otherwise technically difficult. There are also a number of limitations on the release of electronic documents designed for the protection of the individual privacy.:§§13, 14, 15
The reasons for withholding a document are listed in the article 24 of the Act. They may be grouped to three categories: automatic non-openness, conditional non openness or conditional openness. The documents where automatic non-openness is prescribed remain withheld in all cases. In the case of conditional non-openness, the reasonability of the non-openness is reviewed case-by-case by the authority and, if appeals are made, by the court. In the third category, openness os a rule, and the reason for non-openness needs to be established by the authority.:§24
The absolute reasons for non-openness are (subpoint of Article 24 in captions):§24
- Documents of the foreign policy committee of the Council of State, foreign policy memos of the foreign ministry on political status, negotiations with foreign governments or organisations and diplomatic cryptograms, unless released by the ministry (1)
- registers held by law enforcement for investigation and prevention of crimes, as well as passport or ID card photos and biometric information on them (4)
- statistics and other documents on economic policy that might have amn impact on financial markets, until they are released to public (13)
- documents handed over to a statistical authority for the compilation of statistics and documents handed over voluntarily to an authority for purposes of research and statistics (16)
- documents containing medical information, information on sexual orientation or information pertaining to a customer of labour administration or of social services (25)
- documents containing information on a judicial psychiatric examination or on certain personal investigations relating to execution of prison sentences and similar custodial sentences (26)
- documents containing results or information from imdividual psychological testing (29)
- documents relating to the care of students, as well as any student evaluations containing verbal information on the personal qualities of the student (30)
- documents containing a secret phone number, or the location of a mobile communications device (31)
- documents identifying an anonymus witness (31a)
- documents containing information on individual's political opinions, hobbies, personal habits, membership and activities in associations, family life or opinions uttered within private life. However, information on having held positions of responsibility held or having been a candidate for them is public, as well as being aa founding member of a political party or electoral association. (32)
Conditional non-openness is mandated for the following categories of documents, unless it is "obviously clear" that the protected interest is not endangered:§24.1
- documents concerning international relations of Finland, Finnish institutions or Finnish persons, unless it is obviously clear that no harm will befall on Finnish foreign relations now or in the future (2)
- documents concerning criminal investigations or pending prosecutions until the investigation is over or the prosecution has pleaded, unless it is obviously clear that the investigation or the prosecution is not harmed and no private person will suffer material harm nor suffering (3)
- documents on security of buildings, facilities, communications or information systemz, unless it is obviously clear that the security is not endangered (7)
- all documents of Finnish Security Intelligence Service and other documents concerning state security, unless it is obviously clear that state security is not endangered (9)
- documents concerning national defence or military intelligence, unless it is obviously clear that national defence is in no way harmed or endangered (10)
- documents, records and data used as a basis for or concerning an academic thesis, scientific or scholarly research or product development, unless it is obviously clear that the research, development or study, their proper evaluation, the student or the researcher or the funder of the work are not harmed (21)
- documents concerning a refugee or an applicant for a visa, residence permit or an asylum, unless it is obviously clear that the person or his loved ones are not harmed (24)
- information contained in the criminal register and in other registers held by authorities overseeing the execution of punishments, as well as documents of authorities if they contain personal information on persons who have lost their personal freedom or who participate in witness protection program, unless it is obviously clear that the security, future employment and social reintegration of the person will not be endangered and there is a valid reason for releasing the specific information in question (28)
Conditional openness is prescribed for the followi g categories of information::§24.1
- technical and tactical methods of police, Finnish Border Guard and prison authorities, if their release would make the work of such authorities more difficult (5)
- administrative complaimts during their handling, if their release would harm investigation or be likely to cause suffering or harm to a party in the matter, unless grave reasons exist for release of information (6)
- information on civil defence or rescue preparations and on safety investigations, if the release would endanger rescue work, civil defence preparations, safety or security or their continued development, or would endanger getting information in future safety investigations, or would hurt the victims of an accident, their memory or their loved ones (8)
- information on financial, monetary, labour or fiscal policy measures or their preparations or pre-studies if the release would defeat the purpose of such measures, endanger the negotiation position of the state or otherwise cause great harm to the management of such policies (11)
- studies conducted by regulatory authorities of financial and pensiin institutions, if the studies include information on the regulated bodies and the release would endanger the proper functioning of financial markets (12)
- documents containing information on endangered species or valuable natural areas, if the release would endanger their preservation (14)
- documents pertaining to an investigation or other control measure by an authority if the release would endanger the regulatory control measure or its purpose (15)
- detailed returns of political candidates on their campaign funding (15)
- business and professional secrets of public bodies, if a competing the body would suffer economuc harm, or a public or private body pursuing competing or similar activities would gain a competitive advantage by the release or if the possibilities of the a body bound by the Publicity Act to make advantageous purchases or other financial arrangements would be harmed (17)
- documents used by a public body in a collective bargaining or labour action if the release would harm the public body as the employer (18)
- documents used for preparation of a legal action, if the release would harm a public body as a party to a suit (19)
- documents containing information on entrance examinatiin or other examination or test, if the release would defeat the purpose of the test or exam or prevent its future use (22)
- documents containing sensitive information on the private life of a suspect, plaintiff, witness or other party to a criminal investigation, or information on the victim that would hurt the victim's memory or her loved ones, unless the release is necessary to conduct the work of an authority (26)
Non-open information remains non-open for 25 years after it was created or obtained by an authority. Documents that are non-open to protect the privacy of an aindividual remain non-open for 50 years after the protected individual has died.:§31.2,31,5
If information is still, after 25 years, valid and describes a security measure of a building, facility, system or method or it is still part of a plan used for national defence or civil defence, it remains non-open as long as the information is pertinent for the purpose. The same indefinite non-openness applies to all documents under international security obligations, if the release might still affect Finnish foreign relations negatively. The non-openness of other documents may be prolonged up to 55 years by the Council of State, if necessary to safeguard a protected interest.:§31.3–4
In France, the accountability of public servants is a constitutional right, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
The implementing legislation is the Loi n°78-753 du 17 juillet 1978 portant diverses mesures d'amélioration des relations entre l'administration et le public et diverses dispositions d'ordre administratif, social et fiscal (Act No. 78-753 of 17 July 1978. On various measures for improved relations between the Civil Service and the public and on various arrangements of administrative, social and fiscal nature). It sets as a general rule that citizens can demand a copy of any administrative document (in paper, digitized or other form), and establishes the Commission d’Accès aux Documents Administratifs, an independent administrative authority, to oversee the process.
In Georgia, the General Administrative Code contains a Law on Freedom of Information.
In Germany, the federal government passed a freedom of information law on September 5, 2005; it was last updated on August 7, 2013. The law grants each person an unconditional right to access official federal information. No legal, commercial, or any other kind of justification is necessary.
Nine of the sixteen Bundesländer—Berlin, Brandenburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saarland and Thüringen—have approved individual "Informationsfreiheitsgesetze" (Freedom of Information laws).
In Greece, the 1975 Greek Constitution guaranteed the right of access to administrative documents and the right of citizens to obtain information. However it was not until 1986 that the first law was passed to provide for access to information.
Article 16 (Right to Access Administrative Documents—Δικαίωμα γνώσης διοικητικών εγγράφων) of Law 1599/1986 (State-citizenry Relationship—Σχέσεις Κράτους-πολίτη) introduced the right of all citizens to read most administrative documents. This right is now codified as article 5 (Access to documents—Πρόσβαση σε έγγραφα) of the Administrative Procedural Code (Κώδικας Διοικητικής Διαδικασίας), Law 2690/1999. Under this article, citizens have a right to know the content of administrative documents. Administrative documents are defined as those produced by public sector entities, such as reports, studies, minutes, statistical data, circulars, instructions, responses, consultatory responses, and decisions. In addition, citizens with a legitimate interest may also access private documents stored by public services. The right cannot be exercised if the document concerns the private or family lives of others, or if the document's confidentiality is safeguarded by specific legal provisions. Furthermore, the public body can refuse access if the document refers to discussions in the Cabinet, or if accessing the document can seriously hamper criminal or administrative violation investigations carried out by judicial, police, or military authorities.
Citizens may study the documents at the place where they are archived, or they may obtain a copy at their own cost. Access to one's own medical data is provided with the help of a doctor. Access to documents should take into account whether they be covered by copyright, patent, or trade secret regulations.
In Hong Kong there are no laws specifically enacted to guarantee the freedom of information.
Since March 1995, the Government of Hong Kong has promulgated a "Code on Access to Information" to serve a similar purpose. This code, like other internal regulations of the Government, was not legislated by the Legislative Council and has a minimal legal status. It requires government agencies listed in its appendix to appoint Access to Information Officers to answer citizens' requests for governmental records. A fee maybe charged prior to the release of information. The code does not require the government to archive information.
In Hungary, the Act on the Protection of Personal Data and Public Access to Data of Public Interest of 1992 extends a right of access to all data of public interest, defined as any information processed by a body performing a governmental function. Complaints and contested applications may be appealed to the Data Protection Commissioner or to the court.
In 2005 the Parliament adopted the Act on the Freedom of Information by Electronic Means (Act XC of 2005). The Act has three basic parts: 1. electronic disclousure of certain data by public sector bodies, 2. publicity of legislation and 3. openness of Court decisions.
The Right to Information Act (RTI Act) was passed by Parliament on 11 May 2005 and was published in the gazette of India on 15 June 2005. It came into effect on 12 October 2005 replacing the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002. The Supreme Court of India had, in several Judgments prior to enactment of both Acts, interpreted Indian Constitution to read Right to Information as the Fundamental Right as embodied in Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and also in Right to Life. RTI Act laid down a procedure to guarantee this right. Under this law all Government Bodies or Government funded agencies have to designate a Public Information Officer (PIO). The PIO's responsibility is to ensure that information requested is disclosed to the petitioner within 30 days or within 48 hours in case of information concerning the life or liberty of a person. The law was inspired by previous legislation from select states (among them Tamil Nadu (1997), Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002) etc.) that allowed the right to information (to different degrees) to citizens about activities of any State Government body.
A number of high profile disclosures revealed corruption in various government schemes such scams in Public Distribution Systems (ration stores), disaster relief, construction of highways etc. The law itself has been hailed as a landmark in India's drive towards more openness and accountability.
However the RTI India has certain weaknesses that hamper implementation. There have been questions on the lack of speedy appeal to non-compliance to requests. The lack of a central PIO makes it difficult to pin-point the correct PIO to approach for requests. There is also a criticism of the manner in which the Information Commissioners are appointed to head the information commission. It is alleged by RTI Activists that bureaucrats working in close proximity with the government are appointed in the RTI Commissions in a non-transparent manner. The PIO, being an officer of the relevant Government institution, may have a vested interest in not disclosing damaging information on activities of his/her Institution, This therefore creates a conflict of interest. In the state of Maharashtra it was estimated that only 30% of the requests are actually realized under the Maharashtra Right to Information act. The law does not allow disclosure of information that affects national security, defence, and other matters that are deemed of national interest.
In Ireland the Freedom of Information Act 1997 came into effect in April, 1998. This provided for members of the public to access information specifically about themselves, amend incorrect information, and request an explanation behind administrative decisions concerning themselves, as well as allowing any person to access records generated by a list of specified public bodies. The Act is seen as having led to a sea-change in the relationship between the citizen, journalists, government departments and public bodies. Disclosure is the default assumption of the Act; bodies can withhold information only by citing exemptions specified in the legislation. Decisions of public bodies in relation to requests for information may be reviewed by the Information Commissioner.
The Act was subsequently amended by the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003. The amendments introduced fees for non-personal requests and restricted the kinds of material which could be accessed.
On 14 October 2014, the Freedom of Information Act 2014 repealed the 1997 and 2003 Acts, removing most of the restrictions introduced in 2003 and widened the range of bodies covered to all public bodies, unless specifically exempt. It also allowed for the Government to prescribe (or designate) other bodies receiving significant public funds, so that the FOI legislation applies to them also.
One particular controversy which has caused concern to journalists and historians is that traditionally government ministers would annotate and sign any major policy or report documents which they had seen. However this practice has fallen out of favour because of the new openness. This annotation and signing of documents has often given a paper trail and unique insight as to "what the minister knew" about a controversy or how he or she formed an opinion on a matter. Also civil and public servants have become more informal, in keeping written records of potentially controversial meeting and avoiding writing memos as a result. While this information would not often be released, and sometimes only under the thirty year rule, the fact that government ministers now do not annotate and sign documents creates the concerns that while government is open it is not accountable as to who did or saw what or how decision making process works.
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In Israel, the Freedom of Information Law, 5758-1998, supported by the Freedom of Information Regulations, 5759-1999, controls freedom of information. It defines the bodies subject to the legislation by a set of listed categories - essentially, most public bodies - and provides for the government to publish a list of all affected bodies. However, this list does not seem to have been made publicly available, if indeed it was ever compiled.[POV? ] Many public bodies are not obliged to follow the law, which limits the potential for use by the public.
The Israeli Freedom of Information Law has, in some cases, actually achieved the opposite intended result. some Government agencies now take the position that a citizen may only request information via FOIL—i.e., an official letter designated as such and including the 95 shekel fee. Thus an Israeli citizen in many cases cannot simply write a letter asking a question, and can be asked to file a FOIL application with a fee and wait the minimum statutory 30 days for a reply, which the agency can extend to 60 days. In many cases FOIL letters are simply ignored, or some laconic response is sent stating the request is either unclear, unspecific, too vague or some other legalese, anything in order to keep the information away from the public. When the 60 days are up, if the anticipated result usually yield nothing significant, the applicant must petition the District Court to compel disclosure, a procedure that requires attorneys to draft pleadings and a payment of (approximately) $420 court fee. A judgement in such FOIL appeals in Israel can take many months, and again the agency can easily[neutrality is disputed] avoid disclosure by simply not complying, althogh risking being charged with contempt of court. While there are some successes in Courts compelling Israeli government agencies to disclose information, they are usually in non-controversial areas. The law provides for the expected[POV? ] "security" exemption and an applicant applying for such information can expect not to benefit from FOIL (and also have his or her court appeal rejected). it will be noted that Applicants can sometimes be helped by The Movement for Freedom of Information.
Chapter V of Law No. 241 of 7 August 1990 provides for access to administrative documents. However, the right to access is limited. The law states that those requesting information must have a legal interest. The 1992 regulations require "a personal concrete interest to safeguard in legally relevant situations." The courts have ruled that this includes the right of environmental groups and local councilors to demand information on behalf of those they represent. It was amended in 2005. The revision appears to adopt the court rulings and relax the interest somewhat to allow access when an individual can show they represent a more general public interest.
In Jamaica, the relevant legislation is the Access to Information Act, 2002.
In Japan, the "Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs" (行政機関の保有する情報の公開に関する法律) was promulgated in 1999. The law was enforced in 2001.
In many local governments, it establishes the regulations about information disclosure (情報公開条例) from the latter half of the 1980s.
The Constitution of Latvia states: "Article 100. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to freely receive, keep and distribute information and to express his or her views. Censorship is prohibited." The right to access state held information has been repeatedly recognized by the Constitutional Court of Latvia, most notably in its judgment "On Conformity of the Cabinet of Ministers 21 January 1997 Regulations No.46 "On Government Agreements" with the 20 November 1998 "Information Accessibility Law"
The Law on Freedom of Information was signed into law by the State President in November 1998 and has been amended a number of times recently. Any person can ask for information in "any technically feasible form" without having to show a reason. The request can be oral or written. Bodies must respond in 15 days.
On the 1st of September 2012, Legal Notice 156 of 2012 brought the Freedom of Information Act (Chapter 496 of the Laws of Malta) fully into force, allowing the public (resident citizens of Malta, the EU and the EEA) to submit requests for documents/information held by the Government. FOI requests are submitted free of charge but processing of documents by public authorities may require the public to pay fees which never exceed Eur 40. When access to documents is refused, the FOIA in Malta provides for a complaint and appeal mechanism that can be ultimately resolved through the Courts of Appeal.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed the Freedom of Information Act of 2010 into law in October 2010. Liberia became only the fourth country in Africa, and the first in West Africa, to pass such legislation. The law allows both the media and individual citizens to demand information from any public authority or any private authority that carries out government functions.
Article 16 of the Constitution of Macedonia guarantees "access to information and the freedom of reception and transmission of information".
The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character was adopted on 25 January 2006. It is scheduled to go into force in September 2006.The law allows any natural or legal person to obtain information from state and municipal bodies and natural and legal persons who are performing public functions. The requests can be oral, written or electronic. Requests must be responded to in 10 days.
The state of Selangor passed the Freedom of Information Enactment (Selangor) 2010 on 1 April 2011, allowing the Malaysian public an access to the state documents including that of local councils, city halls and state government-linked companies. Subsequently, the state of Penang passed the Freedom of Information bill on 4 November 2011, allowing the public to access to state documents. Both states are under the ruling of the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat.
The Maidives passed the Right to Information Act (RTI) on January 12, 2014.
The Constitution was amended in 1977 to include a right of freedom of information. Article 6 says in part, "the right of information shall be guaranteed by the state." The Supreme Court made a number of decisions further enhancing that right.
The Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information was unanimously approved by Congress in April 2002 and signed by President Fox in June 2002. It went into effect in June 2003.
A freedom of information law was passed in Montenegro late in 2005, after a process of several years.
Article 110 of the Constitution states: "In the exercise of their duties government bodies shall observe the principle of transparency in accordance with the rules to be prescribed by Act of Parliament."
The Dutch act on public access to government information entered into force in 1980 and is updated several times later. Under the act known as the nl, or Wob for short, any person can demand information (called wobbing) related to an administrative matter if it is contained in documents held by public authorities or companies carrying out work for a public authority. The request can either be written or oral. The authority has two (on environmental issues) or four weeks to respond. The act also obliges the government to provide information unsolicited as it is in the interest of good and democratic governance.
In New Zealand, the relevant legislation is the Official Information Act 1982. This implemented a general policy of openness regarding official documents and replaced the Official Secrets Act.
President Goodluck Jonathan has signed into law the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, awaited for 12 years by media proprietors and practitioners alike, during which the Villa got knocks for filibustering and lawmakers complained of bombardment by campaigners.
The House of Representatives passed the Bill on February 24, 2011 and the Senate dialled up integrity on March 16 as it delivered on promise to pass it.
The harmonised version was passed by both Chambers on May 26, 2011.It was conveyed to Jonathan on May 27, and he signed it on May 28, 2011, according to a statement Aso Rock issued on Tuesday.
Two states in Nigeria (namely Ekiti and Lagos State) have adopted the Freedom of Information Act at State level but they have extended the response date at State level from 7 days to 14 days. More states are expected to adopt the bill and come up with their own version. FOI expert and author of Nigeria Freedom of Information Act: A Practical Guide For Nigerians, Temitope Olodo, on BEN TV Channel 184 told viewers that "the passing of the law was a victory for Nigerians all over the world".
The current freedom of information legislation was enacted May 19. 2006, and superseded the previous law of 1970 by January 1, 2009. Article 100 of the Constitution gives access to public documents. The basic principle of the law is everyone has the right to access to State and municipal documents and to be present at sittings of courts and elected assemblies.
President Pervez Musharraf promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 in October 2002. The law allows any citizen access to public records held by a public body of the federal government including ministries, departments, boards, councils, courts and tribunals. It does not apply to government owned corporations or provincial governments. The bodies must respond within 21 days.
More recently, by virtue of the 18th Amendment of 2010, article 19A has been inserted in the Constitution of Pakistan. It gives the right to access to information the status of a fundamental constitutional right. Article 19A "Right to Information" reads: "Every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by law".
In Paraguay, a law protects habeas data, meaning that any citizen can request a copy of publicly or privately held information relating to him, and can stipulate that any inaccurate data found be destroyed. This has been chiefly used by former dissidents after the fall of the lengthy de facto dictatorship (1954–1989) of Alfredo Stroessner. In 2005, efforts have been made to add transparency to purchases made by the Government, with a system that publishes bids on the internet as well as the resulting purchases.
Article 61 of the Constitution provides for the right to information and mandates that Parliament enact a law setting out this right.
The Law on Access to Public Information was approved in September 2001 and went into effect in January 2002. The Act allows anyone to demand access to public information, public data and public assets held by public bodies, private bodies that exercise public tasks, trade unions and political parties. The requests can be oral or written. The bodies must respond within 14 days.
Republic of Moldova
Article 34 of the Constitution provides for a right of access to information.
The Law of the Republic of Moldova on Access to Information was approved by Parliament in May 2000 and went into force in August 2000. Under the law, citizens and residents of Moldova can demand information from state institutions, organizations financed by the public budget and individuals and legal entities that provide public services and hold official information.
The law Relating to Access to Information was passed on the 08/02/2013. It puts forth the purpose of the law, recognizes the right to access to information, the procedures for accessing information, and compliance related issues.available at http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/postoftheday/2013/18/Rwanda_ATI_Law_March2013_NewDelhi_SatbirS.pdf
In Serbia, the Access to Public Information Act gives access to documents of public authorities.
Slovakia passed the Freedom of Information Act in May 2000 (Num. law: 211/2000 Z. z.). Under the law, everybody can demand information from state institutions, organizations, from municipalities, individuals and legal entities financed by the public budget.
Slovenia passed the Access to Public Information Act in March 2003. The Act governs the procedure which ensures everyone free access to public information held by state bodies, local government bodies, public agencies, public funds and other entities of public law, public powers holders and public service contractors.
Section 32 of the Constitution of South Africa guarantees "the right of access to any information held by the state; and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights." This right is implemented through the Promotion of Access to Information Act, which was enacted on 2 February 2000. The right of access to privately held information is an interesting feature, as most freedom of information laws only cover governmental bodies.
The Constitutional Court ruled in 1989 that there is a constitutional right to information "as an aspect of the right of freedom of expression and specific implementing legislation to define the contours of the right was not a prerequisite to its enforcement."
The Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies was enacted in 1996 and went into effect in January 1998. It allows citizens to demand information held by public agencies.
In Sweden, the Freedom of the Press Act grants public access to official documents and is included in the Constitution of Sweden. Dating back to 1766, it is the first freedom of information legislation in the modern sense. In modern times the right has become known as the Principle of Public Access (Swedish: offentlighetsprincipen).
The Principle of Public Access means that the general public is guaranteed insight into activities pursued by government agencies. All official documents handled by government agencies are considered public unless they contain information specified as secret under the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act. Each request to take part of official documents is handled individually and classifying documents or information as secret is subject to appeal. The constitution also grants the right for government employees to pass on information without risk of criminal charges or repercussions and the right to attend court proceedings and meetings of legislative assemblies like the Riksdag.
Switzerland is a federal state. Access to federal documents is governed by the Swiss Federal Act on the Principle of Freedom of Information in Public Administration. Access to documents at the cantonal level is governed by cantonal laws, which are mostly similar to the federal law.
Taiwan (Republic of China)
In Thailand, the relevant legislation is the Official Information Act of 1997.
Trinidad and Tobago
In Trinidad and Tobago, the relevant legislation is the Freedom of Information Act, 1999.
In Turkey, the Turkish Law on the Right to Information (Bilgi Edinme Hakkı Kanunu) was signed on October 24, 2003 and it came into effect 6 months later on April 24, 2004.
In Uganda, the Access to Information Act was approved in 2005 and went into effect in 2006.
The 1996 Constitution does not include a specific general right of access to information but contains a general right of freedom of collect and disseminate information and rights of access to personal and environmental information.
The 1992 Law on Information (since 2011.05.09 - new edition) is a general information policy framework law that includes, classification of information, a citizen's a right to access information, accreditation policy, information of public interest and exemptions from liability for journalists.
Law on Access to Public Information was adopted 13 January 2011 and go into force from 9 May 2011. It widens the range of subjects, obliged to provide information, gives legislative definition of public information and makes public information accessible with statutory restrictions.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (2000 c. 36) is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom on a national level, with the exception of Scottish bodies, which are covered by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (2002 asp. 13). Environmental information is covered by further legislation Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister who introduced the Freedom of Information Act, later expressed regret over the Act, claiming that the Act impeded the ability of officials to deliberate "with a reasonable level of confidentiality".
In the United States the Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect the following year. Ralph Nader has been credited with the impetus for creating this act, among others. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments were signed by President Bill Clinton on October 2, 1996.
The Act applies only to federal agencies. However, all of the states, as well as the District of Columbia and some territories, have enacted similar statutes to require disclosures by agencies of the state and of local governments, though some are significantly broader than others. Some state and local government agencies attempt to get around state open records laws by claiming copyright for their works and then demanding high fees to license the public information.:441–42 Some states expand government transparency through open meeting laws, which require government meetings to be announced in advance and held publicly.
The Act was enacted in 2008 under President Vazquez's Administration and is mainly implemented by the Judiciary.
Pending legislation by country
- In Argentina, national freedom of information legislation is pending, though some individual regions have legislation on a local level. Such is the case of the City of Buenos Aires.
- In Barbados, the Government headed by David Thompson has proposed to put in place a Freedom of Information Bill. The Government has launched various initiatives to vett the proposed bill with the citizens of the country for comment.
- In Botswana, as of 2003[update], the government was quoted as saying "The Freedom of Information Bill is not a priority for the new ministry, but some activities like information gathering and initial planning will start."
- In the Cayman Islands, the Freedom of Information Regulations Act 2008 is expected to go into effect on January 1, 2009.
- In Fiji, the constitution gives a general right of access, but enabling legislation has not yet been passed. A draft Freedom of Information Bill was circulated in 2000 but derailed by political unrest; the government has not yet begun work on a second bill.
- In Ghana, the Right to Information Bill 2003 was resubmitted to the Cabinet in 2005.
- In Indonesia, the House of Representatives drafted and submitted a freedom of information bill in 2004,and in 2008 passed with the name Public Information Openness Law.
- In Jordan, there is a draft Law on the Guarantee of Access to Information which was passed onto Parliament at the end of 2005.
- In Kenya, the draft Freedom of Information Act 2007 will soon be tabled into Parliament.
- In Lesotho, the Access and Receipt of Information Bill was before Parliament in 2003-4, but the current status of the legislation is unknown
- In the Maldives, there is currently no freedom of information legislation. In 2004, the government announced that a bill was expected to be passed in that year, but this has not yet transpired.
- In Mauritius, there is currently no freedom of information legislation. In 2005, the government pledged to enact a Freedom of Information Act but no legislation has yet been passed.
- In Mozambique, the government produced a draft Freedom of Information Bill in August 2005. It is expected to become law within two years.
- In Nauru, the Freedom of Information Act 2004 was laid before the parliament in that year, but was not passed. Further work on the legislation is currently being held back, pending a review of the country’s Constitution.
- In Sri Lanka, the 2004 draft Freedom of Information Act has been endorsed by both major parties, but had not been passed as of January 2005.
(Unless stated otherwise, information is current as of July 2008).
- Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters
- Freedom in the world
- Non-profit organizations and access to public information
- Open government
- Right to know
- Need to know
- Transparency in behaviour
- David Banisar
- Alasdair Roberts
- Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Council member (1974–94) who authored city's freedom-of-information ordinance
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- TribuneIndia.com, Appointment of bureaucrat as Punjab CIC draws flak
- Easy way to file rti online anywhere in India
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- GetUp4Change: Online Community to file RTI applications anonymously.
- OnlineRTI: Portal to submit RTI applications online.
- RTINation: Portal to file RTI applications online
- For a comparison between Indian and British legislative efforts see British Council India's LEGAL eNEWS
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Freedom of information.|
- Freedominfo: one-stop portal for freedom of information laws and movements around the world.
- Right2Info: good law and practice from around the world, including links to RTI and other related laws and constitutional provisions from nearly 100 countries.
- Open Government: a Journal on Freedom of Information. An open access e-journal with peer-reviewed research and commentary on FOI worldwide. Now defunct?
- ARTICLE 19: Global human rights organisation which promotes freedom of expression and access to information
- The Access Initiative
- The Publics Right to Know
- Freedom of Information Training Manual for Public Officials
- Model Freedom of Information Law
- National Right to Information Laws, Regulations and Bills Map, November 2011
- Global Integrity Transparency Report, covers over 80 countries, updated yearly
- International survey of FOI laws, mid-2005
- World FOI Chart, comparative table of FOI laws
- Global index of FOI rulings
- Access Info Europe
- UK Campaign for Freedom of Information
- Privacy & Data Protection: UK's leading journal on FOI issues.
- Legal Leaks - Freedom of Information and Journalism
- Transparency International BiH
- Government portal for Right to Information
- Government Portal for filing RTI Online - central government only
- Online Service to file RTI Applications for both state and central governments
- The National Freedom of Information Coalition
- The WikiFoia A wiki for state and local laws, news and support
- The National Security Archive – a collection of declassified documents acquired through the FOIA
- Comprehensive list of FOIA officers in US government
- FOIA Guidance -- U.S. Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, 2009
- Georgia Open Records Act, Ballotpedia