Guest post by Lydia Medland, Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) Coordinator.
Over the last 10 years the right of access to information, or “freedom of information”, has spread exponentially. Laws have been passed in over 40 countries recognising that citizens have a right of access to information, international courts have ruled that citizens should have a right to information, and the UN has recognised that a right of access to information forms part of our fundamental right to freedom of expression.
The fundamental right to information has also been reflected in other transparency asks, including areas such as aid, development and the environment. More and more, citizens are accepting how the transparency helps hold their governments to account.
All these changes didn’t happen automatically, and there is a large community and movement of activists and advocates behind these changes that have been pushing for transparency and calling for an end to the era when decisions were taken, and power was exercised, behind closed doors.
Many individuals and groups, such as Publish What You Fund, who are part of the movement for access to information form part of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet).
FOIAnet is the international network of civil society activists who share information and news about what is happening in their countries and assist one another in calling for government openness.
Last year was the 10th anniversary of the FOIAnet and also the 10th year of the official day to celebrate the right to information, Right to Know Day. As part of the activities to recognise these 10 years of work, and to review where the community finds itself today, members of the FOIAnet wanted to bring together information on what was happening at the regional level in the fight for the right to information.
The Global Right to Information Update started as an initiative for a 15 page “update” on regional developments, written by groups and activists from each region.
After a deep and participative process with 8 authors from 7 continents, the report has grown into a broader reflection of the movement for the right of access to information. It includes regional maps which for the first time visually represent the quality of the legal system for the right to information in each country and it includes photos by information activists from around the world.
What started as an “update” has perhaps transformed into a story of how an idea as powerful as “the right to information” is changing communities around the world.
By sharing information about this right and the many innovative ways in which it is being used, we look forward to continuing to shape the international landscape, empowering citizens with their right to information, alongside organisations such as Publish What You Fund.