Right to Information in Other Countries

Freedom of Information

Since 1946, the United Nations has recognized that “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and the touchstone for all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated”  “It is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and made legally binding on States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

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 requester does not usually have to give an explanation for their request, but if the information is not disclosed a valid reason has to be given.

It is important to note that most freedom of information laws exclude private sector from their jurisdiction. That means, information held by the private sector cannot be accessed as a legal right. This limitation entails serious implications because now private sector is performing many functions which were previously the domain of public sector. As a result, a lot of information is now with the private sector, but it cannot be forced to disclose information

Starting with Sweden and Finland, the principle of the freedom of information has been approved as part of legislation throughout the world in over 90 countries today, representing nearly five billion people. Some of the countries that joined the RTI club in recent years are: Switzerland (2007), USA (2007), China (2008), Indonesia (2008), and Bangladesh (2009). Pakistanis got their RTI in 2002. Over 50 countries have proposals to adopt law pending.

In 1990s, the Right to Information was seen predominantly as an administrative governance reform, whereas today it is increasingly being seen as a fundamental human right.

Further Initiatives

Open Data. Both the US and the UK governments launched new open data sites to make raw datasets of public information available for the first time. This allows for the public to do its own analysis of policies and expenditures. In theUK, this included detailed spending information.

World Bank. The World Bank transparency policy released in December 2009 substantially improves the transparency of the Bank. While it is not perfect, there is hope that the policy will set the standard for other international financial institutions.

Read full 21 page report here: RTI_ACT_2005 Report

About Goodpal

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