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OBAMA PLEDGES OPENNESS AND TRANSPARENCY

IFEX members ARTICLE 19 and Privacy International (PI) welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's new policies that enhance public access to government information - announced on his first day of office.

The Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act sets out new standards in favour of disclosure and calls for "an unprecedented level of openness in government," say ARTICLE 19 and PI.

"In the face of doubt, openness prevails," the memo reads. "The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.

"Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve."

ARTICLE 19 and PI say the initiative "reverses years of excessive secrecy" and should act as a model for other nations.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch applauded Obama's swift decision to halt Guantanamo's "unfair" military commissions for 120 days, giving the new administration time to decide on the merit of the cases. Human Rights Watch says it's one of the first steps needed to "undo the enormous damage caused by the Bush administration and begin to restore the U.S. government's reputation and effectiveness as a human rights defender."

Visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19/PI: http://tinyurl.com/dyzs35
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/9xzjhp
(28 January 2009)

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