FOI is global

My friend David Banisar has just completed the first draft of his latest global survey of freedom of information laws. Sixty eight countries now have access laws that give citizens a right to know.

Go to http://www.freedominfo.org to download the new report: “Freedom of Information Around the World 2006: A Global Survey of Access to Government Records Laws,” by David Banisar.

I’ve long thought it ridiculous the amount of lenience given to public authorities who fail to abide by the UK law. Even the UK Information Commissioner allows great laxity to bureaucrats who claim they ‘need time’ to comply with this legislation. David’s report reveals that the UK’s implementation of the Act nearly five years after it was passed, was the “slowest of any country in the world”.

With such a long lead time, there is no justification for the poor implementation and enforcement of this law.

It’s also interesting to compare the UK to other countries, notably the US. For example while the US manages to operate with just nine categories of exemption, no official secrets act and full coverage of the security services, the UK has 25 exemptions, an Official Secrets Act with no public interest safeguard, and full immunity from public scrutiny for British intelligence services.

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