Political Science at Huntingdon College
Huntingdon College | Political Science | Professional Pages | FOI Quotes | FRAMP '05 Projects | FRAMP refs '05 | Internet Effect | What's New?
External links: Access Reports | Campaign for FOI, UK | Carter Center, Atlanta | EPIC | FAS Project on Government Secrecy | FAS archive of CRS reportsFreedomInfo.org | OpenTheGovernment.org | National Security Archive | Privacy.org | Transparency & Secrecy Listserv
Canada: Info Commisioner's Reports, Canada | Michel-Adrien, LibraryBoy blog

See also my: Index to FOIA Links | US FOIA Text as Amended, 2007

log of Freedom of Information Laws and Policies:

FreedomInfo.US: United States | United Kingdom | Global Developments

Covers access to information; the right to know; privacy; transparency;
official secrecy; declassified information and related issues

compiled by Jeremy Lewis, PhD; revised 11 Nov. '10
Any links or pages archived here, were compiled purely for individual scholarly research.  No endorsement is necessarily implied of any views found therein.
Global Developments

  • Transparency, global academic articles:
  • R. GASTON GELOS, and SHANG-JIN WEI.  2005.  "Transparency and International Portfolio Holdings".  The Journal of Finance, 60 (6): 2987–3020, December 2005.  DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6261.2005.00823.x. [HTML] [PDFAbstract: Does country transparency affect international portfolio investment? We examine this question by constructing new measures of transparency and by making use of a unique microdata set on portfolio holdings of emerging market funds around the world. We distinguish between government and corporate transparency. There is clear evidence that funds systematically invest less in less transparent countries. Moreover, funds have a greater propensity to exit nontransparent countries during crises.
  • Lipsey, Roger.  2001.  "PwC's Opacity Index: A Powerful New Tool for Global Investors." Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance, 12: 35–44. doi: 10.1002/jcaf.1106. [PDF] Abstract: The PricewaterhouseCoopers Opacity Index has created a stir among global investors. For the first time, you can rate how “transparent” a country's economy is—how easy it will be for a business venture to succeed, and what each country's problem areas are. The author explains the details of this powerful new tool, and how to use it. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • India, academic articles:
  • Peisakhin, Leonid, and Paul Pinto, "Is transparency an effective anti-corruption strategy? Evidence from a field experiment in India," Regulation & Governance, 4 (3): 261–280. Published abstract online, September 201023 Sep 2010, DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-5991.2010.01081.x.  Abstract: Can freedom of information laws be harnessed by underprivileged members of society and used to obtain greater access to basic public goods that are otherwise attainable only through bribery? Drawing on a field experiment on access to ration cards among New Delhi's slum dwellers, we demonstrate that India's recently adopted freedom of information law is almost as effective as bribery in helping the poor to secure access to a basic public service. We find support for the theoretical proposition that greater transparency and voice lowers corruption even in highly hierarchical and unequal societies. 
  • Roberts, Alasdair.  2010.  "A Great and Revolutionary Law? The First Four Years of India’s Right to Information Act."  Public Administration Review, 70 (6): 925–933, November/December 2010 [PDF, full article] Article first published online: 26 OCT 2010, DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2010.02224.x.  Abstract: India’s 2005 Right to Information Act (RTIA) is among dozens of national laws recently adopted similar to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Drawing on several large studies examining the act’s implementation, the author finds that Indian citizens filed about 2 million requests for information under the RTIA during its first two and half years. However, use of the law was constrained by uneven public awareness, poor public planning, and bureaucratic indifference or outright hostility. Requirements for proactive disclosure of information are often ignored. The necessary mechanisms for enforcing the new law are also strained by a growing number of complaints and appeals. Nonetheless, RTIA advocates demonstrate its transformative potential and continue to press energetically for more effective implementation. Public authorities and civil society organizations have developed a number of practical innovations that may be useful for other developing countries to adopt when considering similar laws.
  • eGovernment sites, a new portal with reviews of, and links to, leading research sites, from IPSA
  • China, academic report on OGI regulations:
  • Horsley, Jamie P., The China Law Center, Yale Law School. 2010.  "Update on China’s Open Government Information Regulations: Surprising Public Demand Yielding Some Positive Results."  23 April 2010. 
  • Chapter of academic anthology, global developments of FOI, recently discovered:
  • Neuman, Laura, and Richard Calland.  2007.  “Making the Law Work: The Challenges to Implementation,” in Florini, Anne, ed., The Right to Know: Transparency for an Open World (New York: Columbia U. Press), pp.182ff; also available at Carter Center
  • Report, from Canada, on use of social media among UK MPs:
  • Social media in the UK Parliament (tweets, podcasts, images shared on Flickr, YouTube videos, online committee consultations with the public, and a popular game of "MP for a week") involve issues such as parliamentary privilege and establishing identities when facilitating  informal electronic communications both among MPs and between MPs and the public. The viewership of the website of the Prime Minister numbered in the millions in just a two month period of early 2010.  Parliament 2020, a visioning project using focus groups, in conjunction with the Hansard society, has made recommendations for social networking in the future.  Eichenberg, Havi.  2010.  Social Media, 5. Parliamentary Use in the United Kingdom. Report, Social Affairs Division, Library of the Parliament of Canada. [PDF]
  • New issue published, Open Government Journal:
  • This may be the final issue of Open Government, whose funding from the Open Society Institute (Soros.org) is running out (donations requested). The peer-reviewed, online journal has bridged the gap between online news and blogs on the one bank, and formal, peer reviewed academic journals on the other.  Founded in 2005 by Steve Wood and recently edited by Marc-Aurèle Racicot, based in Quebec, it has with ten issues over five years brought together writers and reviewers from multiple countries around a common interest.  See Editorial [small PDF]; or whole issue, Open Government Journal 6(1) (11 July 2010) [large PDF]
  • Canada, Supreme Court opinion:
  • The Supreme Court of Canada issued a judgment 17 June 2010, concluding that s. 2(b) of Canada's Charter of Rights does not guarantee access to all documents in government hands, but "only where access is necessary to permit meaningful discussion on a matter of public importance, subject to privileges and functional constraints.” The burden rests on the claimant to establish that the denial of access effectively precludes meaningful commentary. (Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that everyone has the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.)  See Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers’ Association, 2010 SCC 23, www.scc-csc.gc.ca
  • Canada, annual FOI Audit:
  • The National Freedom of Information Audit 2009-2010 [highlights, small pdf] [full report, PDF] was released by the Canadian News Association in May. Federal institutions performed worse than municipal; a few requests met with demands for fees in the thousands of Canadian dollars; and requests for electronic records (such as data in Excel spreadsheet format) [p. 40, or p. 43/52 of PDF] were far more likely to be denied in part (53%) compared to hardcopy documents (of which 48% were released in full).  In some cases, electronic data were released in static form as PDFs.  Informal release was also more common for hardcopy than for electronic data.  The improved, annual exercise, employing students systematically to make simple ATI requests to agencies at all 3 levels of government, found poor federal performance in disclosing information that should be publicly available on request.  "In fact, of 18 extensions of 30 days or longer, 12 were claimed by federal institutions, and of the nine for 60 days or longer, all but one was at the federal level. One of those ran to 190 days, about six months." [Introduction, p.4 of PDF]  Municipalities [p. 10] were again the fastest responders, though those in New Brunswick are not yet subject to the new information act. 
  • Report, Information Commissioner of Canada:
  • The Canadian Information Commissioner reported critically in April 2010 on extensive delays in the access to information system. The 2010 report card covered 24 institutions, representing 88 percent of all access requests submitted in 2008–2009, and including all institutions receiving at least five delay-related complaints.  (The threshhold is 30 days from receipt of request, and delays beyond this are deemed refusals of information.) ).  Strikingly, law enforcement agencies were praised for their prompt processing.  Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Department of Justice Canada delivered materials punctually, "due to senior management’s ongoing support for a compliance-prone culture." The Canada Border Services Agency and Public Works and Government Services Canada performed above the average, following a three year plan of improvement. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also substantially improved.  On the other hand, Foreign Affairs Canada was so far behind the curve that they could not be rated by the report's criteria.  The causes of problems were found to be: primarily, leadership's commitment to ATI; complex delegation orders within agencies; inter-institutional consultations (where only the agency receiving the request is accountable for the ATI processing; deficient resources for ATI processing; and sound records management.  Reports by the 241 federal institutions subject to the Access to Information Act show that they received 34,041 requests in 2008–2009.[report, footnote 3] See Legault, Suzanne.  Interim Information Commissioner of Canada.  2010.  Out of Time: 2008–2009 Report Cards on Systemic Issues Affecting Access to Information in Canada. Government of Canada. April, 2010. [Executive summary] [Full report in PDF]
  • Canada, blogger notes special ATI report to Parliament 2010:
  • In a special report to Parliament in April 2010, interim Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault, expressed

  • concern about the number and length of time extensions on responding to ATI requests, noting that interdepartmental consultations were becoming an important source of delay and that institutions were employing tactics to try to stay within legislated timeframes (including extensions). These include taking extra-long extensions and asking requesters to narrow the scope of their requests, possibly excluding important information.  “The time needed to complete the consultation in order to release the information to the requester then depends on the efficiency and goodwill of the institution being consulted,” the report said. “There are currently neither requirements nor incentives to quickly process consultation requests, even where required by government policy.” Michel-Adrienne blog, Wednesday, April 14, 2010, "Information Commissioner Special Report to Parliament on Access to Information."
  • Canada, blogger notes annual ATI report to Parliament 2009:
  • Mr. Marleau, Canadian Federal Information Commissioner, reported that six out of the 10 institutions surveyed last year underperformed. They were the RCMP, Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Public Works, Canada Border Services Agency and Health Canada: "The most significant finding is that the 30-day timeline intended by Parliament is becoming the exception instead of the norm. The institutions reviewed this year process, on average, less than half of their requests in 30 days ..." Michel-Adrien Blog, Sunday, 1 March 2009. "2007-2008 Report Cards Criticize Federal Government on Access to Information." 
  • Ireland, Access to Information in Local Government, survey results:
  • McDonagh, Maeve.  2010.  "Access to local government information in Ireland: Attitudes of decision makers".  See Open Government Journal 6(1) (11 July 2010) [PDF]
  • Canada, Access to Information:
  • The ATI regime in Canada suffered under a change of commissioner and the national security environment post 9/11, with the war in Afghanistan.  It needs rebuilding.  See Brett, Matthew. 2010. "The Information War: Rebuilding Canada’s Access to Information Act After Afghanistan." Open Government Journal 6(1) (11 July 2010) [PDF]
  • Bangladesh, new Right to Information Act, 2009:
  • In Bangladesh, where secrecy had been based upon Section 5 (1) of the Official Secrets Act, 1923; Section 123 of the Evidence Act; Rule 19 of the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1979; and Rule 28(1) of the Rules of Business 2009 -- there is now the Right to Information Act, 2009.  It had been drafted by the transitional government, signed as an executive ordinance, and then ratified by the next parliament.  As usual, there is a list of positive obligations for official publication, followed by a list of exemptions, though the bill lacks a public interest balancing test.  See Murad, Mohammad Hasan.  2010.  "Improving Transparency through Right to Information and e-Governance: a Bangladesh Perspective." Open Government Journal 6(1) (11 July 2010) [PDF]
  • Bangladesh, development of e-Governance:
  • Facilitated by the spread of affordable wireless GPRS/EDGE internet cellphone service, the Grammeenphone company has established Community Information Centers within phone shops in many locations.  These should be supplemented with centres in schools and colleges, plus the spread of  third generation (3G) internet technology.  Even the poor nation of Bangladesh can and should implement e-Governance in (p. 16) "every level of government to improve accountability, transparency, legitimacy, openness, and to bring focus on citizens in the management of governance relationships and the provision of services."  See Murad, Mohammad Hasan.  2010.  "Improving Transparency through Right to Information and e-Governance: a Bangladesh Perspective." Open Government Journal 6(1) (11 July 2010) [PDF]
  • Minnesota, state government issues of freedom of information:
  • Schmidt, Patrick, Zac Farber, Hannah Johnson, and Robert Woo.  2010.  "Sustaining Transparency?: Journalists, Government Officials, and the Minnesota Data Practices Act." Open Government Journal 6(1) (11 July 2010) [PDF]
  • Report, Russia:
  • Dumas, Graham Frederick, Comparative Analysis of Russian and American Freedom of Information Legislation (March 10, 2010). Via ITSRN. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1598469
  • Abstract: A brief study [in Russian] of the new Russian freedom of information law (No. 8-FZ, Feb. 9, 2009) through the lens of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. While the new Russian law addresses many prior concerns of information-freedom advocates and creates a much more robust regime of access to information, several problems remain. These are in part due to certain provisions in the law, which are phrased rather broadly, as well as to the lack of institutional independence that continues to plague the Russian judiciary, at least in cases to which the government is a party. All-in-all, however, this law presents a positive step forward for freedom of information in Russia.
  • Policy, World Bank:
  • Toby McIntosh, "World Bank inaugurates new disclosure policy" and names members to new "Access to Information Appeals Board." FreedomInfo.org, 2 July 2010. 
  • Selected World Bank links: disclosure policy | recent documents list | historic documents
  • Draft legislation, Brazil:
  • The Brazilian House and one of several Constitutional commissions of the Senate have passed an access to information law, although it still lacks an appellate body; see Toby McIntosh, "Brazil Advances Access Legislation," FreedomInfo.org, 28 June 2010.
  • Draft legislation, Sierra Leone:
  • The Sierra Leone Cabinet June 16 approved a draft Freedom of Information bill. See Toby McIntosh, "Sierra Leone Cabinet Advances FOI Bill," FreedomInfo.org, 25 June 2010
  • Draft policy, Asian Development Bank:
  • A first draft of a new Public Communications Policy has been published by Asian Development Bank officials -- and promptly criticized for its broad exemptions and lack of appellate body. See Toby McIntosh, "ADB Draft Transparency Policy Criticized," FreedomInfo.org 21 June 2010; and "ADB Proposes Revisions to Public Communications Policy," 4 June 2010
  • Legislation fails, Philippines:
  • Legislation fails: For lack of a quorum on 4 June 2010, the House of Representatives in the Philippines was unable to pass a Freedom of Information Act. See FreedomInfo.org.
  • New complaints processing system, Office of Information Commissioner, Canada:
  • The OIC Canada reported on its own ATI processing, having determined causes of delays, and implemented a new two-track system of processing that set up an intake unit (for triage) to assign complaints to a simple track (for mediation and resolution) or a complex track.  The aim was to reduce a backlog of processing. A strategic case management team cleared off, in four months, a third of the 1,594 case backlog that had developed by April 2008.  See Office of the Information Commissioner, Canada.  2009.  Annual Report, 2008-09
  • New jurisdiction and new ombudsman to self-investigate OIC office, Canada:
  • The coming into force of the Federal Accountability Act 2007 added a layer of complexity, just as the fourth IC (Robert Marleau, the former clerk of the House of Commons) took office. Under this new law, about 70 additional institutions -- including the OIC itself -- became subject to the Access to Information Act. Complaints thereby increased by 80%, necessitating a reorginization of the OIC's processes.  A retired Supreme Court Justice was hired as an independent ad hoc commissioner, to handle any complaints against the OIC itself.  Office of the Information Commissioner, Canada. 2008. Annual Report, 2007-08.
  • Academic journal article, Mexico: 
  • Gill, J. & Hughes, S. (2005). Bureaucratic Compliance with Mexico's New Access to Information Law. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 22(2), 121-137. doi:10.1080/07393180500072038
  • Abstract: We analyze government document custodians' attitudes and behaviors in order to assess the prospects of a new access to information law establishing a citizen's right-to-know in Mexico. The Mexican law is considered one of the best in the hemisphere in terms of broad access and workable enforcement provisions. However, no extra resources were allotted to government agencies for compliance with the law; the country's traditional bureaucratic incentive structures support closure rather than access; and bureaucrats' views on the uses of government information prior to democratization suggest an instrumental approach guided organizational incentives rather than generalized support for either secrecy or access as a principle. We argue that missing or unclear political will at the top is the strongest challenge to Mexico's emerging right to know.
  • Australian Law Reform Commission
  • "Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia", Report 112 [Index] [PDF 3.2 MB] -- or select chapters; html version also available.  Argues both for penal sanctions for unauthorized disclosures and protection for whistleblowers.
  • National Committee on U.S.-China Relations' "Rule of Law/International Transparency Conference," Shanghai, China, December 11-13, 2009
  • Academic journal article, EU: 
  • Curtin, Deirdre and Albert Jacob Meijer.  2006.  "Does transparency strengthen legitimacy?"  Information Polity: The International Journal of Government & Democracy in the Information Age, 11 (2): 109-122.
  • Abstract: Does enhanced transparency, through the Internet, boost the legitimacy of the EU? In this paper we present a critical perspective on the assumptions underlying the relation between transparency and legitimacy. We reconstruct three assumptions from EU policy documents – transparency strengthens input legitimacy, output legitimacy and social legitimacy – and then highlight several weaknesses. We conclude that transparency is a key element of democratic institutions but naïve assumptions about the relation between transparency and legitimacy can and should be avoided. We warn against a simplified trust in the benefits of the Internet: enhancing legitimacy is much more complicated than creating fancy websites.
  • Conference panel, Switzerland: 
  • on 7-9 April 2010, at the conference at the University of Berne, Switzerland, of The International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM) there will be a panel track on transparency. See www.irspm2010.com and scroll to Panel track 31: Transparency and Accountability, featuring Martial Pasquier (IDHEAP Lausanne, Switzerland), Daniel Caron (ENAP, Canada), Jean-Patrick Villeneuve (IDHEAP Lausanne, Switzerland), Andreas Kellerhals, (Swiss Federal Government, Switzerland), and Suzanne J. Piotrowski, (Rutgers University, USA).
  • "Transparency and accountability were offered by the Obama administration as ways to deal with the current crisis. Now that his administration appears to back track on some of these proposals, can these elements be qualified as mere administrative make-up? This panel wishes to discuss the use and limits of transparency and accountability tools and frameworks in public organisations." Panel page (draft).
  • Academic journal article, Mexico: 
  • Jonathan Fox, Carlos García Jiménez and Libby Haight, “Rural Democratization in Mexico’s Deep South: Grassroots Right-to-Know Campaigns in Guerrero,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 36(2), 2009. [671K, PDF] Generally, the authors conclude that some grassroots movements had difficulty conceptualizing the value of using information laws to obtain data so as to apply pressure to state governments.  When they did, they were more effective. 
  • Academic book chapter, Mexico: 
  • Jonathan Fox, “Transparencia y rendición de cuentas,” (“Transparency and Accountability”) in John Ackerman, ed., Más Allá del Acceso a la Información: Transparencia, Rendición de Cuentas y Estado de Derecho, Mexico: Siglo XXI/Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, UNAM/CETA, 2008 [PDF]
  • Book, Latin America:
  • Book surveying all 11 new Latin American legal regimes on the right to information, published by UNESCO: Toby Mendel, The Right to Information in Latin America: A Comparative Legal Survey (UNESCO, 2009) [PDF]
  • Interest group report, India:
  • The Executive Summary of the People's review of the Indian Right to Information regime, 2008 [PDF] by the RTI Assessment & Analysis Group (RaaG) and the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) is posted.  [Local PDF]
  • Academic report, Latin America: 
  • Greg Michener examined media coverage in the 12 months before passage of 2008 FOI laws in three Latin American countries, finding that media coverage was strongly correlated with stronger provisions in the new law.  Whereas in Uruguay there was little media coverage of the campaign for FOI led by GAIP, and weaker provisions in the resultant law; there was much more active coverage in FOI campaigns in Chile and Guatemala and stronger provisions in the law.  The implication for Brazil, where the current campaign receives even less coverage, is not encouraging.  See Greg Michener, "Freedom of Information Legislation and the Media in Latin America," Freedominfo.org, 19 May '09His graph of media coverage is found here.
  • News Coverage of FOIA campaigns in Latin America, 2007-08
  • Conferences, international:
  • Thursday, Nov 5, 2009, Dublin, Ireland. 4th Annual Data Protection Practical Compliance Conference.  Ireland's largest Data Protection Conference brings together information and compliance professionals to discuss data protection issues faced by Irish Organisations.
  • Oct 15 – 16 2009, George Town / Penang, Malaysia. Strengthening Initiatives for FoI Legislation in Malaysia.  Transparency International Malaysia & Konrad Adenauer Stiftung sponsor this conference, to raise the profile of the issue and push for FoI legislation.
  • Jul 13 – 17 2009: 2nd Africa Chapter Conference: Towards Opening Access to Information & Knowledge in the Agricultural Sciences and Technology in Africa. Accra, Ghana.  Tthe International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists – Africa Chapter (IAALD) hosts this event for material from public research institutes and academic institutions in Africa. 
  • Jun 29 – 30 2009, Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London, UK.  9th European Conference on e-Government.

  • Jun 10 – 12 2009, University of Alberta, Canada. 2009 Access and Privacy Conference: The Pursuit of Truth. Truth corresponds to activities for managing information with integrity and accurately, finding and facilitating access to records by requestors, and sharing teaching, transparency, and continuous improvement of internal information management processes. 
  • May 17 – 19 2009, Puebla, Mexico. 10th International Digital Government Research Conference: "Social Networks: Making Connections between Citizens, Data & Government"?  Policy implications of open government and innovative applications of Web 2.0, the social web.
  • May 15 – 17 2009, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Rights, Responsibilities, Trust: Archives and Public Affairs

  • The Association of Canadian Archivists Annual Conference 2009 will examine the changing public perception of archives and the consequent transformation of archival operations. Themes: changing public policies about information and evidence, mounting concern for human rights and social responsibilities, increasing awareness of the importance of archives in current affairs, and the role of archives in sustaining a civil society. 
  • Interest group recognition, Brazil:
  • "Jimmy Carter Presses for Greater Access to Information in the Americas: Sao Paulo Gives Jimmy Carter Highest Award in Recognition of Human Rights.  Former US President Jimmy Carter publicly pressed for widespread support for Brazil's pending transparency law last week. The government has pledged to pass an access to information law this year, as reported previously by freedominfo. On Sunday, May 3rd, Carter was given the Ordenm do Ipiranga Award by Sao Paulo Governor Jose Serra, recognizing Carter's work on human rights and democracy promotion in the region. The next day, Carter visited with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, as part of a South American tour promoting transparency and open government in the region." -- FreedomInfo.org, newsletter, 8 May 2009.
  • Conferences, international:
  • May 4 – Jun 12, 2009, conducted online. Professional Development Program for Parliamentary Staff: Module 3 Parliamentary Committees.  The World Bank Institute’s Parliamentary Strengthening Program and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association offer a 14- module web-based professional development program for parliamentary staff. 32 hours of training, over 5 weeks. Topics covered will include some limited material on Transparency, Participation and Outreach. 
  • May 4, 2009 - Highlights from the Right of Access to Information Conference in Lima, Peru, By Laura Neuman, associate director of the Carter Center's Americas Program and the access to information project manager. 

  •       "The Americas Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information held in Lima, Peru, ended on Thursday, April 30, with final plenary sessions considering the conference Findings and Plan of Action.  The conference, held under the auspices of The Carter Center in collaboration with the Organization of American States, the Andean Juridical Committee, and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, was a follow-up to the International Conference on Public Information held last year at the Center in Atlanta.  The goal of the Americas Regional conference was to contextualize the findings from the global conference and to advance the right of access to information in the region.  [...] 110 participants from 18 countries in the Americas representing governments, civil society organizations, regional and international bodies and financial institutions, donor agencies and foundations, the private sector, media, and scholars.
         Beginning  Tuesday April 28, conference attendees were invited to attend a World Bank consultation on their draft disclosure policy.  Close to 50 of our participants attended and provided important inputs, which will be shared with World Bank officials in Washington, including President Zoellick.  That afternoon, we held the first plenary sessions with an opening by Santiago Canton, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank director for Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela. [...]  The rest of Tuesday was comprised of panels on the impact of transparency, whether transparency and the right of access to information is a "luxury" in the face of regional crises, and four illuminating case studies.
         Throughout Wednesday, April 29, experts and regional leaders spent the day in small working groups exploring the incentives and costs for passing, implementing, and enforcing an access to information law; the necessary environment – such as an independent judiciary, strong institutions, and capacitated media - for the right to information to thrive; how to extend the notion of transparency to the development banks such as the World Bank and to the private sector; strategies for increasing the demand for the right to information; and whether the Americas needs a regional treaty.  The conclusions of these working groups served as the basis for the conference findings and plan of action.  [...]
          On Thursday, April 30, we returned to meet as a group for report backs from the working groups and, under President Carter's leadership, to debate the draft conference findings and plan of action.  In the afternoon, we heard from the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Catalina Botero and Vice-President of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights Diego Garcia-Sayan.
         At the conclusion of the conference, participants reiterated that the right of access to information is a fundamental human right and necessary to fight corruption, improve development and good governance, and to exercise other essential rights.  The conference further found that secrecy has been a major contributing factor to crises – security, financial, environmental – in our region and that the major challenges facing the Americas are a lack of implementation and enforcement, backsliding in the right of access to information, and an absence of widespread demand.  Participants will be submitting additional comments for the draft documents, with the final version of the Americas Regional Findings and Plan of Action completed and issued in the coming two weeks."
  • Course, Africa:
  • 10 Feb. – 30 Sep. 2009, Fahamu Networks for Social Justice offers a distance learning course on understanding access to information and how to campaign effectively, drawing on experiences in Africa

  • Policy announcments, Europe, Chile:
  • "Council of Europe adopts weak access to information convention," FreedomInfo.org, 19 Dec. 2008

  • "Council of Europe committee puts off decision on draft access to information convention, permits more time for input and improvements," FreedomInfo.org, 7 Nov. 2007
    Council of Europe's Interim Report on Access to Official Documents (2006), Extract 2007
  • Chile Becomes Latest Latin American Nation to Enact FOIA Law -- see freedominfo.org Update, August 13, 2008

  • Called the "Ley sobre Transparencia de la Función Pública y Acceso a la Información de los Órganos de la Administración del Estado" (Law on Transparency of Public Functions and Access to Information of the Agencies of State), the legislation was signed by President Michelle Bachelet on August 11.
         The signing of the law culminates a major campaign by Chilean freedom of information groups such as Pro-Acceso and Chile Transparente to bring about transparency in governance in Chile. The right-to-know movement received a major boost in October 2006, when the Inter-American Court ruled in a case, Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile, that the Chilean government had improperly withheld information from environmental groups on a deforestation project known as Rio Condor. The Court ordered the Chilean government to adopt legal measures "to guarantee the effectiveness of an adequate administrative process for dealing with requests for information, which sets deadlines for providing the information."
         The new law signed by President Bachelet gives government agencies 20 days to respond to petitions for information; it also orders agencies to create permanent government Web sites and postings to facilitate public access to official records. The law establishes a unique "Council for Transparency" to oversee and arbitrate the release of government documentation. President Bachelet now has 60 days to name the four members of the council.
  • Carter Center issues Declaration on Transparency, 5 Aug. '08, in Atlanta -- from FreedomInfo.org

  • " The Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action, serving as a framework for advancing this human right, finds that access to information is fundamental to dignity, equity and peace with justice, and that a lack of access to information disproportionately affects the poor, women and other vulnerable and marginalized societies.  The Declaration calls on all states and intergovernmental organizations to enact legislation and instruments for the exercise, full implementation and effective enforcement of this right. It further encourages all stakeholders to take concrete steps to establish, develop, protect and promote the right of access to information."
  • Open Government Journal | Volume 4 (2008); Issue 1 (April)
  • Report on Mexico:
  • Article: 
  • Babak Armajani, "The Risks and Rewards of Transparency", Governing Magazine, Feb '08
  • Conference, International:
  • Carter Center's "International Conference on the Right to Public Information," Atlanta, February 26-29, 2008.
  • Carter Center documents:
  • The Carter Center's Americas Program has an Access to Information Project, which originated in Jamaica and has spread to a few other countries in the region.
    Recently discovered: Summaries of Transparency for Growth Conference, Carter Center, 5 May 1999
  • Court opinion, Japan:
  • Tokyo District Court ruled last month that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs violated Japan's information disclosure law by failing to respond in a timely manner to a request to release documents on the Japan-Korea Normalization Pact. This sets a major precedent. January 30, 2008 -  Freedominfo.org
  • Conferences, international:
  • Information Commissioners Hold 5th International Conference in New Zealand, 12 Dec. 2007, from FreedomInfo.org
  • International Right to Know Day 2006: Celebrating Freedom of Information Around the World, 28 Sep. 2006, from FreedomInfo.org
  • Survey, global: 
  • 68 Countries Now Have Access Laws: "Freedom of Information Around the World 2006: A Global Survey of Access to Government Records Laws," by David Banisar [PDF - 1 MB] [Word - 1.3 MB], 4 JULY 2006
  • New legislation, Canada:
  • The new Conservative government of Canada introduced (April 2006, bill C-2) and then enacted (2006) a Federal Accountability law.  This added 70 government-related organizations to the ATI Act, offered protection for whistleblowers, created an ombudsman for the budget, and an ethics commissioner -- but also allegedly weakened enforcement provisions of the ATI Act.  See Michel-Adrien, LibraryBoy blog, 11 April 2006.
  • The Right to Know movement (2002-) and the Right to Know Day:
  • The Open Society Justice Initiative of Soros.org, facilitated forming the Right to Know Day celebrations in 2003. The ‘Right to Know’ Day was created in 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria at an international meeting of access to information advocates, who proposed that 28 September be adopted globally for celebrating access to information. Within a few years, participating countries and NGOs had increased from 40 to over 60. (The participating Canadian site is Right to Know, Canada. US celebrations have for many years instead been focussed on James Madison's birthday in the spring.) The ten core principles are:

  •     * Access to information is a right of everyone
        * Access is the rule—secrecy is the exception
        * The right applies to all public bodies
        * Making requests should be simple, speedy, and free
        * Officials have a duty to assist requesters
        * Refusals must be justified
        * The public interest takes precedence over secrecy
        * Everyone has the right to appeal an adverse decision
        * Public bodies should pro-actively publish core information
        * The right should be guaranteed by an independent body