REGIONS:

SUBSCRIBE:

Sign up for weekly updates

FOI TRIUMPHS CELEBRATED ON RIGHT TO KNOW DAY

While civil society groups in more than 60 countries celebrated International Right to Know Day on 28 September, ARTICLE 19 and Privacy International, as well as the Open Society Justice Initiative, documented the past year's triumphs of the right to access government information.

"Although the global movement experienced setbacks in 2007, the bottom line is that there have been net gains, especially in China, Latin America, and West Africa," says the Justice Initiative.

One of the most important international developments in the past year was the landmark ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Claude Reyes v. Chile that declared freedom of information (FOI) is a fundamental human right. "This will have a profound effect on countries in the region and sets an important precedent for the rest of the world," says ARTICLE 19. "FOI is now recognised as an important tool to promote democracy and fight corruption by the UN, Council of Europe, Organization of American States, League of Arab States and the African Union."

Over the past year, new laws were approved in Honduras, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Nicaragua and most recently the Cayman Islands. Norway adopted an even more open law while the U.S. is currently making the first major improvements to its law in a decade. Amendments to weaken FOI laws were rejected in the U.K. and Bulgaria. Dozens more countries around the world, including Chile, Ghana, Kenya, Malta and Tanzania, also considered bills.

Some other highlights over the past year:

Nigeria's Freedom of Information Bill's enactment into law has been in the works for more than eight years. The bill would allow journalists and citizens to access government information, and is considered to be the single most important piece of legislation to hold the promise of reducing and eventually beating corruption. With a new National Assembly and the recently elected President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, there is hope that the bill will be put back on the agenda. The Freedom of Information Coalition led by IFEX member Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has launched a petition requesting the bill to be passed into law before the end of this year, and has already collected more than half a million signatures. See: http://www.foicoalition.org/

The Africa Freedom of Information Center (AFIC), which will support FOI adoption, implementation, and reform campaigns throughout Africa, was launched in Lagos on Right to Know Day. The centre was developed by a group of 30 NGOs from 16 countries and is led by a Steering Committee of six organisations, including MRA and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) office in Senegal.

In Asia, China's State Council unveiled the first nationwide Open Government Information Regulations, due to take effect in 2008. According to a top official, the regulations are intended to safeguard "the public's right to know, the right to participate and the right to supervise" and to "help curb corruption at its source."

In Europe, the Council of Europe is continuing to draft what is to become the first multilateral treaty to guarantee a general right of access to publicly held information. Access Info Europe, ARTICLE 19 and the Justice Initiative, who have observer status on the drafting group, have voiced "serious concerns" that the treaty falls below prevailing standards in Europe. They have collected signatures from more than 180 organisations throughout Europe and elsewhere that call for the flaws to be resolved before the treaty is finalised next week.

Visit these links:
- Justice Initiative: http://tinyurl.com/2t46ea
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/369oz5
- Privacy International Global Survey of FOI laws (English, Russian and Arabic) and Global Map of FOI: http://tinyurl.com/2ozth7
(2 October 2007)

Latest Tweet:

Valentine's Week gift for African continent in the shape of ECOWAS Court landmark judgement directing Gambia to ame… https://t.co/6FYetGPtQ2