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ARTICLE 19 analyses right to information bill

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 26 October 2009 - ARTICLE 19 has produced a Submission on the Public Access to Information Bill prepared by the government of Bermuda. We very much welcome efforts to recognise the right to information in Bermuda and note that the Bill contains some very positive features. At the same time, the Submission highlights a number of concerns with the Bill, including that it applies only to information created after it comes into force and that secrecy laws trump it. We urge the government to revise the Bill to bring it into line with international standards in this area.

The right to access information held by public authorities, commonly known as the right to information, is a fundamental human right and central to democratic participation, accountability and combating corruption. In adopting a right to information law, Bermuda will join approximately 90 other countries and territories to have done so.

The Submission highlights a number of positive features in the Bill, including its application to information held by public contractors, the fact that all information provided in response to a request shall be made available on a proactive basis, and that personal information does not extend to information about the functions of public officials.

However, ARTICLE 19 has a number of concerns with the Bill in addition to those highlighted above, including the following:
- The absence of a framework for fees for access.
- The lack of a harm test for all exceptions.
- The failure to extend the public interest override to all exceptions.
- The lack of protection for good faith actions by civil servants pursuant to the law.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Bermudan authorities to ensure that the law finally adopted is fully in line with international standards.

Click here to read ARTICLE 19's submission on the right to information bill
To read the draft bill and for more information on making a submission, click here

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