Freedom of information legislation

Freedom of information legislation

Freedom of information legislation comprises laws that guarantee access to data held by the state. They establish a "right-to-know" legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions. Also variously referred to as open records or (especially in the United States) sunshine laws, governments are also typically bound by a duty to publish and promote openness. In many countries there are constitutional guarantees for the right of access to information, but usually these are unused if specific support legislation does not exist.



Over 85 countries around the world have implemented some form of such legislation. Sweden's Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 is the oldest in the world.[1]

Most freedom of information laws exclude the private sector from their jurisdiction. Information held by the private sector cannot be accessed as a legal right. This limitation entails serious implications because the private sector is performing many functions which were previously the domain of the public sector. As a result, information that was previously public is now within the private sector, and the private contractors cannot be forced to disclose information.[2]

Other countries are working towards introducing such laws, and many regions of countries with national legislation have local laws. For example, all states of the United States have laws governing access to public documents of state and local taxing entities, in addition to that country's Freedom of Information Act which governs records management of documents in the possession of the federal government.

A related concept is open meetings legislation, which allows access to government meetings, not just to the records of them. In many countries, privacy or data protection laws may be part of the freedom of information legislation; the concepts are often closely tied together in political discourse.

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

Legislation by country


In Albania, the constitution of 1998 guarantees the right of access to information; the legislation supporting this is the Ligji nr. 8503, date 30.6.1999, Per të drejten e informimit per dokumentat zyrtare (Law no. 8503, dated June 30, 1999, On the right to information over the official documents). This requires public authorities to grant any request for an official document.[3][4]


The Law on Freedom of Information[5] was unanimously approved by the Parliament on 23 September 2003 and went into force in November 2003.


In Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1982 was passed at the federal level in 1982, applying to all "ministers, departments and public authorities" of the Commonwealth.

There is similar legislation in all states and territories:

  • Australian Capital Territory, the Freedom of Information Act 1989[6]
  • New South Wales, the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009[7]
  • Northern Territory, the Information Act 2003[8]
  • Queensland, the Right to Information Act 2009[9]
  • South Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1991[10]
  • Tasmania, the Right to Information Act 2009[11]
  • Victoria, the Freedom of Information Act 1982[12]
  • Western Australia, the Freedom of Information Act 1992[13]


In Azerbaijan, a Law on Access to Information was approved in 2005. It has gone into effect. Previously in 1998 there was accepted Law on Freedom on Information, but the Law of 2005 provided more detailed and secured regulation for access to official information.


On October 21, 2008, the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh issued in the Bangladesh Gazette the Right to Information Ordinance (No. 50 of 2008), based loosely on the Indian Right to Information Act, 2005.[14] The Ordinance was passed by the current government of Bangladesh in the first session of this parliament on March 29, 2009.


Article 32 of the Constitution was amended in 1993 to include a right of access to documents held by the government.


In Belize, the Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1998 was amended in 2000 and is currently in force, though a governmental commission noted that "not much use has been made of the Act".[15]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (short: BiH), was the first country in the Balkan region to adopt the Freedom of Informationan Act.Freedom of Access to Information Act or FOIA - was adopted by the Parliament Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 17 November 2000. Both federal entities - the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina - passed freedom of information laws in 2001, the Freedom of Access to Information Act for the Republika Srpska and Freedom of Access to Information Act for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina respectively. The FOIA Act changed on the BiH state level two times. The first alteration was passed in 2006, enabling stronger legal protection within the framework of administrative law of BiH. The second alteration was passed in December 2009, which enforced legal penalties for prescribed violation's.


In Brazil, the Article 5, XXXIII, of the Constitution sets that "everyone shall have the right to receive information of his own interest or of public interest from public entities, which shall be given within the time prescribed by law". Also, article 22 of the Federal law nº 8.159/1991 grants the right to "full access to public documents". There is not, however, any law specifying the manner and the timetable for the information to be given by the State.


In Bulgaria, the Access to Public Information Act was passed in 2000, following a 1996 recommendation from the Constitutional Court to implement such a law.


In Canada, the Access to Information Act allows citizens to demand records from federal bodies. The act came into force in 1983, under the Pierre Trudeau government, permitting Canadians to retrieve information from government files, establishing what information could be accessed, mandating timelines for response.[16] This is enforced by the Information Commissioner of Canada.

There is also a complementary Privacy Act that was introduced in 1983. The purpose of the Privacy Act is to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by a federal government institution and that provide individuals with a right of access to that information. It is a Crown copyright. Complaints for possible violations of the Act may be reported to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Canadian access to information laws distinguish between access to records generally and access to records that contain personal information about the person making the request. Subject to exceptions, individuals have a right of access to records that contain their own personal information under the Privacy Act but the general public does not have a right of access to records that contain personal information about others under the Access to Information Act. Each province and territory in Canada has its own access to information legislation. in many cases, this is also the provincial public sector privacy legislation. For example:

From 1989 to 2008, requests made to the federal government were catalogued in the Coordination of Access to Information Requests System.

A 393 page report released in September 2008, sponsored by several Canadian newspaper groups, compares Canada’s Access to Information Act to the FOI laws of the provinces and of 68 other nations:Fallen Behind: Canada’s Access to Information Act in the World Context.

In 2009, The Walrus (magazine) published a detailed history of FOI in Canada.


The Freedom of Information Law was passed in 2007 and was brought into force in January 2009.


In Chile, article 8 of the Constitution provides for the freedom of information. A law titled Law on Access to Public Information (Ley de Acceso a la Información Pública) took effect on April 20, 2009. (See Law 20,285, in Spanish.)

People's Republic of China

In April 2007, the State Council of the People's Republic of China promulgated the "Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Open Government Information" (中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例), which came into effect on May 1, 2008.[17]


The Colombian constitution grants the right of access to public information through Law 57 of 1985 which thereby mandates the publishing of acts and official documents. This is implemented and applies to documents that belong to official facilities (offices or the like). Additionally there is the anti corruption statement of Law 190 of 1955 also known as anticorruption act which in its 51st article mandates public offices to list in visible area all the contracts and purchases made by month. The latter taking place slowly.

Cook Islands

Access to official information is governed by the Official Information Act 2008. The law is based heavily on the New Zealand legislation.


In Croatia, the Zakon o pravu na pristup informacijama (Act on the Right of Access to Information) of 2003 extends to all public authorities.[18]

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the Zákon č. 106/1999 Sb., o svobodném přístupu k informacím (Act No. 106/1999 Coll. on Free Access to Information) covers the "state agencies, territorial self-administration authorities and public institutions managing public funds" as well as any body authorised by the law to reach legal decisions relating to the public sector, to the extend of such authorisation.[19]


In Denmark, the Access to Public Administration Files Act of 1985 applies to most public agencies, and an unusual clause extends coverage to most private or public energy suppliers.

Dominican Republic

Hipólito Mejía approved Ley No.200-04 - Ley General de Libre Acceso a la Información Pública (Law number 200-04 - Law on Access to Information) on 28 July 2004, which allows public access to information from the government and private organizations that receive public money to conduct state business. Rough drafts and projects that are not part of an administrative procedure are not included.


In Ecuador, the Transparency and Access to Information Law of 2004 declares that the right of access to information is guaranteed by the state.


In Estonia, the Public Information Act[20] of 2000 extends to all "holders of information", which is clarified as being all government and local government bodies, legal persons in public law and legal persons in private law if they are performing public duties (providing health, education etc.).


In matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment, the Aarhus convention grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice in governmental decision-making processes. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities.

Council of Europe

The recognition of the right to access to public information under Article 10 (including "freedom (..) to receive (..) information") of the European Convention on Human Rights was one of subjects in Guerra v. Italy case before the European Court of Human Rights in 1998. The majority considered Article 10 was not applicable to the complaint. However, the court found that in the specific case, which included living near a high-risk factory, not providing information was in violation of Article 8 (respect to private and family life). Besides, two judges expressed a dissent on applicability of Article 10, and further six judges reserved a possibility, that in other circumstances, right to access to information could be protected by Article 10.[21]

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has considered in 1996, that "public access to clear and full information on this subject [Chernobyl disaster] - and many others for that matter - must be viewed as a basic human right".[22] In 2009, CoE Convention on Access to Official Documents was opened for signature.[23]

European Union

Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents[24] grants a right of access to documents of the three institutions to any Union citizen and to any natural or legal person residing, or having its registered office, in a Member State. "Document" is defined broadly and it is assumed that all documents, even if classified, may be subject to right of access unless it falls under one of the exceptions. If access is refused, the applicant is allowed a confirmatory request. A complaint against a refusal can be made with the European Ombudsman and/or an appeal can be brought before the European General Court.

In addition, Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information[25] sets out the rules and practices for accessing public sector information resources for further exploitation.

Since 2008, the European Commission operates the Register of Interest representatives, a voluntary register of lobbyists at the European union.[26]


In Finland, the Laki yleisten asiakirjain julkisuudesta 9.2.1951/83 (Act on the Openness of Public Documents of 1951) established the openness of all records and documents in the possession of officials of the state, municipalities, and registered religious communities. Exceptions to the basic principle could only be made by law, or by an executive order for specific enumerated reasons such as national security. The openness of unsigned draft documents was not mandated, but up to the consideration of the public official. This weakness of the law was removed when the law was revised in the 1990s. The revised law, the Laki viranomaisten toiminnan julkisuudesta 21.5.1999/621 (Act on the Openness of Government Activities of 1999), also extended the principle of openness to corporations that perform legally mandated public duties, such as pension funds and public utilities, and to computer documents.[27]


In France, the accountability of public servants is a constitutional right, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

The implementing legislation is the Loi n°78-753 du 17 juillet 1978 portant diverses mesures d'amélioration des relations entre l'administration et le public et diverses dispositions d'ordre administratif, social et fiscal (Act No. 78-753 of 17 July 1978. On various measures for improved relations between the Civil Service and the public and on various arrangements of administrative, social and fiscal nature). It sets as a general rule that citizens can demand a copy of any administrative document (in paper, digitized or other form), and establishes the Commission d’Accès aux Documents Administratifs, an independent administrative authority, to oversee the process.


In Georgia, the General Administrative Code contains a Law on Freedom of Information.


In Germany, the federal government passed a freedom of information law on September 5, 2005. The law grants each person an unconditional right to access official federal information. No legal, commercial, or any other kind of justification is necessary.

Nine of the sixteen BundesländerBerlin, Brandenburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saarland and Thüringen — have approved individual "Informationsfreiheitsgesetze" (Freedom of Information laws).[28]


In Greece, article 16 (Right to Access Administrative Documents — Δικαίωμα γνώσης διοικητικών εγγράφων) of Law 1599/1986 (State-citizenry Relationship — Σχέσεις Κράτους-πολίτη) introduced the right of all citizens to read most administrative documents. This right is now codified as article 5 (Access to documents — Πρόσβαση σε έγγραφα) of the Administrative Procedural Code (Κώδικας Διοικητικής Διαδικασίας), Law 2690/1999. Under this article, citizens have a right to know the content of administrative documents. Administrative documents are defined as those produced by public sector entities, such as reports, studies, minutes, statistical data, circulars, instructions, responses, consultatory responses, and decisions. In addition, citizens with a legitimate interest may also access private documents stored by public services. The right cannot be exercised if the document concerns the private or family lives of others, or if the document's confidentiality is safeguarded by specific legal provisions. Furthermore, the public body can refuse access if the document refers to discussions in the Cabinet, or if accessing the document can seriously hamper criminal or administrative violation investigations carried out by judicial, police, or military authorities.

Citizens may study the documents at the place where they are archived, or they may obtain a copy at their own cost. Access to one's own medical data is provided with the help of a doctor. Access to documents should take into account whether they be covered by copyright, patent, or trade secret regulations.

In addition, Law 3448/2006, on the reuse of public sector information, harmonizes the national laws with the requirements on the European Union Directive 2003/98/EC.[29]

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong there are no laws specifically enacted to guarantee the freedom of information.

Since March 1995, the Government of Hong Kong has promulgated a "Code on Access to Information" to serve a similar purpose. This code, like other internal regulations of the Government, was not legislated by the Legislative Council and has a minimal legal status. It requires government agencies listed in its appendix to appoint Access to Information Officers to answer citizens' requests for governmental records. A fee maybe charged prior to the release of information. The code does not require the government to archive information.[30]


In Hungary, the Act on the Protection of Personal Data and Public Access to Data of Public Interest extends a right of access to all data of public interest, defined as any information processed by a body performing a governmental function. Complaints and contested applications may be appealed to the Data Protection Commissioner or to the court.

In 2005 the Parliament adopted the Act on the Freedom of Information by Electronic Means (Act XC of 2005). The Act has three basic parts: 1. electronic disclousure of certain data by public sector bodies, 2. publicity of legislation and 3. openness of Court decisions.


In Iceland the Information Act (Upplysingalög) Act no. 50/1996 gives access to public information.


The Indian Right to Information Act (RTI Act) was passed by the Indian Parliament on 15 June 2005. It came into effect on 12 October 2005. Supreme Court of India had, in several Judgments prior to enactment of the RTI Act, interpreted Indian Constitution to read Right to Information as the Fundamental Right as embodied in Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and also in Right to Life. RTI Act laid down a procedure to guarantee this right. Under this law all Government Bodies or Government funded agencies have to designate a Public Information Officer (PIO). The PIO's responsibility is to ensure that information requested is disclosed to the petitioner within 30 days or within 48 hours in case of information concerning the life or liberty of a person. The law was inspired by previous legislation from select states (among them Tamil Nadu (1997), Goa (1997), Rajasthan (2000), Karnataka (2000), Delhi (2001), Maharashtra (2002) etc.) that allowed the right to information (to different degrees) to citizens about activities of any State Government body.

A number of high profile disclosures revealed corruption in various government schemes such scams in Public Distribution Systems (ration stores), disaster relief, construction of highways etc. The law itself has been hailed as a landmark in India's drive towards more openness and accountability.

However the RTI India has certain weaknesses that hamper implementation.[31] There have been questions on the lack of speedy appeal to non-compliance to requests. The lack of a central PIO makes it difficult to pin-point the correct PIO to approach for requests. There is also a criticism of the manner in which the Information Commissioners are appointed to head the information commission. It is alleged by RTI Activists that bureaucrats working in close proximity with the government are appointed in the RTI Commissions in a non-transparent manner.[32] The PIO, being an officer of the relevant Government institution, may have a vested interest in not disclosing damaging information on activities of his/her Institution, This therefore creates a conflict of interest. In the state of Maharastra it was estimated that only 30% of the requests are actually realized under the Maharashtra Right to Information act. The law does not allow disclosure of information that affects national security, defence, and other matters that are deemed of national interest.[33][34][35]

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland the Freedom of Information Act 1997[36] came into effect in April, 1998. The 1997 Act was subsequently amended by the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003.[37] The Act has led to a sea-change in the relationship between the citizen, journalists, government departments and public bodies. There are very few restrictions on the information that can be made public. A notable feature is the presumption that anything not restricted by the Act is accessible. It is widely regarded as a more liberal Act than the UK. Decisions of public bodies in relation to requests for information may be reviewed by the Information Commissioner.

One particular controversy which has caused concern to journalists and historians is that traditionally government ministers would annotate and sign any major policy or report documents which they had seen. However this practice has fallen out of favour because of the new openness. This annotation and signing of documents has often given a paper trail and unique insight as to "what the minister knew" about a controversy or how he or she formed an opinion on a matter. Also civil and public servants have become more informal, in keeping written records of potentially controversial meeting and avoiding writing memos as a result.[38] While this information would not often be released, and sometimes only under the thirty year rule, the fact that government ministers now do not annotate and sign documents creates the concerns that while government is open it is not accountable as to who did or saw what or how decision making process works.

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 brought in fees for making requests for information and requests for review of decisions taken by Government bodies. As a result, one can incur a fee of up to €240 before even being granted access to information.


In Israel, the Freedom of Information Law, 5758-1998, supported by the Freedom of Information Regulations, 5759-1999, controls freedom of information. It defines the bodies subject to the legislation by a set of listed categories - essentially, most public bodies - and provides for the government to publish a list of all affected bodies. However, this list does not seem to have been made publicly available, if indeed it was ever compiled[POV? ]. Many public bodies are not obliged to follow the law, which limits the potential for use by the public.

The Israeli Freedom of Information Law has actually achieved the opposite intended result[citation needed]. Government agencies now take the position that a citizen may only request information via FOIL, i.e. an official letter designated as such and including the 95 shekel fee. Thus an Israeli citizen in many cases cannot simply write a letter asking a question, and can be asked to file a FOIL application with a fee and wait the minimum statutory 30 days for a reply, which the agency can extend to 60 days. In many cases FOIL letters are simply ignored[citation needed], or some laconic response is sent stating the request is either unclear, unspecific, too vague or some other legalese, anything in order to keep the information away from the public[citation needed]. When the 60 days are up, the anticipated result usually yield nothing significant[citation needed], and the applicant must petition the District Court to compel disclosure, a procedure that requires attorneys to draft pleadings and a payment a (approx.) $420 court fee. A judgement in such FOIL appeals in Israel can take years, and again the agency can easily[neutrality is disputed] avoid disclosure by simply not complying. There are no real sanctions for non-compliance[citation needed]. While there are rare successes in Courts compelling Israeli government agencies to disclose information, they are usually in non-controversial areas such as harmless civil matters[citation needed]. The law provides for the expected[POV? ] "security" exemption and an applicant applying for such information can expect not to benefit from FOIL (and also have his or her court appeal rejected). Applicants can be helped by The Movement for Freedom of Information[39].


Chapter V of Law No. 241 of 7 August 1990 provides for access to administrative documents. However, the right to access is limited. The law states that those requesting information must have a legal interest. The 1992 regulations require "a personal concrete interest to safeguard in legally relevant situations." The courts have ruled that this includes the right of environmental groups and local councilors to demand information on behalf of those they represent. It was amended in 2005. The revision appears to adopt the court rulings and relax the interest somewhat to allow access when an individual can show they represent a more general public interest.


In Jamaica, the relevant legislation is the Access to Information Act, 2002.


In Japan, the "Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs"(行政機関の保有する情報の公開に関する法律) was promulgated in 1999. The law was enforced in 2001.

In many local governments, it establishes the regulations about information disclosure(情報公開条例) from the latter half of the 1980s.[40]


The Constitution of Latvia states: "Article 100. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to freely receive, keep and distribute information and to express his or her views. Censorship is prohibited." The right to access state held information has been repeatedly recognized by the Constitutional Court of Latvia, most notably in its judgment "On Conformity of the Cabinet of Ministers 21 January, 1997 Regulations No.46 "On Government Agreements" with the 20 November, 1998 "Information Accessibility Law"[41]

The Law on Freedom of Information was signed into law by the State President in November 1998 and has been amended a number of times recently. Any person can ask for information in "any technically feasible form" without having to show a reason. The request can be oral or written. Bodies must respond in 15 days.


President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed the Freedom of Information Act of 2010 into law in October 2010. Liberia became only the fourth country in Africa, and the first in West Africa, to pass such legislation.[42] The law allows both the media and individual citizens to demand information from any public authority or any private authority that carries out government functions.[43]


Article 16 of the Constitution of Macedonia guarantees "access to information and the freedom of reception and transmission of information".

The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character was adopted on 25 January 2006. It is scheduled to go into force in September 2006.The law allows any natural or legal person to obtain information from state and municipal bodies and natural and legal persons who are performing public functions. The requests can be oral, written or electronic. Requests must be responded to in 10 days.


The state of Selangor passed the Freedom of Information Enactment (Selangor) 2010 on 1 April 2011, allowing the Malaysian public an access to the state documents including that of local councils, city halls and state government-linked companies.[44]. Subsequently, the state of Penang passed the Freedom of Information bill on 4 November 2011, allowing the public to access to state documents.[45]. Both states are under the ruling of the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat.


The Constitution was amended in 1977 to include a right of freedom of information. Article 6 says in part, "the right of information shall be guaranteed by the state." The Supreme Court made a number of decisions further enhancing that right.

The Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information was unanimously approved by Parliament in April 2002 and signed by President Fox in June 2002. It went into effect in June 2003.


A freedom of information law was passed in Montenegro late in 2005, after a process of several years.


Article 110 of the Constitution states: "In the exercise of their duties government bodies shall observe the principle of transparency in accordance with rules to be prescribed by Act of Parliament."

Freedom of information legislation was first adopted in 1978. The Government Information (Public Access) Act (WOB) replaced the original law in 1991. Under the Act, any person can demand information related to an administrative matter if it is contained in documents held by public authorities or companies carrying out work for a public authority. The request can either be written or oral. The authority has two weeks to respond.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the relevant legislation is the Official Information Act 1982. This implemented a general policy of openness regarding official documents and replaced the Official Secrets Act.


President Goodluck Jonathan has signed into law the Freedom of Information (FoI) Bill, awaited for 12 years by media proprietors and practitioners alike, during which the Villa got knocks for filibustering and lawmakers complained of bombardment by campaigners. The House of Representatives passed the Bill on February 24, 2011 and the Senate dialled up integrity on March 16 as it delivered on promise to pass it. The harmonised version was passed by both Chambers on May 26, 2011.It was conveyed to Jonathan on May 27, and he signed it on May 28, 2011, according to a statement Aso Rock issued on Tuesday.[46] Two states in Nigeria (namely Ekiti and Lagos State) have adopted the Freedom of Information Act at State level but they have extended the response date at State level from 7 days to 14 days. FOI expert and author of Nigeria Freedom of Information Act: A Practical Guide For Nigerians, Temitope Olodo, on BEN TV Channel 184[1] told viewers that "the passing of the law was a victory for Nigerians all over the world"


The current freedom of information legislation was enacted May 19. 2006,[47] and superseded the previous law of 1970[48] by January 1, 2009. Article 100 of the Constitution gives access to public documents.[49] The basic principle of the law is everyone has the right to access to State and municipal documents and to be present at sittings of courts and elected assemblies.


President Pervez Musharraf promulgated the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 in October 2002. The law allows any citizen access to public records held by a public body of the federal government including ministries, departments, boards, councils, courts and tribunals. It does not apply to government owned corporations or provincial governments. The bodies must respond within 21 days.


In Paraguay, a law protects habeas data, meaning that any citizen can request a copy of publicly or privately held information relating to him, and request that any inaccurate data found be destroyed . This has been primarily used by former dissidents after the fall of the lengthy dictatorship (1954–1989) of Alfredo Stroessner. In 2005, efforts have been made to add transparency to purchases made by the Government, with a system that publishes bids on the Web, as well as the resulting purchases.


Article 61 of the Constitution provides for the right to information and mandates that Parliament enact a law setting out this right.

The Law on Access to Public Information was approved in September 2001 and went into effect in January 2002. The Act allows anyone to demand access to public information, public data and public assets held by public bodies, private bodies that exercise public tasks, trade unions and political parties. The requests can be oral or written. The bodies must respond within 14 days.

Republic of Moldova

Article 34 of the Constitution provides for a right of access to information.

The Law of the Republic of Moldova on Access to Information[50] was approved by Parliament in May 2000 and went into force in August 2000. Under the law, citizens and residents of Moldova can demand information from state institutions, organizations financed by the public budget and individuals and legal entities that provide public services and hold official information.


Since 2001 there is one law on Freedom of Information and one on transparent decision making processes in public administration (a sunshine law).[51][52]


In Serbia, the Access to Public Information Act gives access to documents of public authorities.


Slovakia passed the Freedom of Information Act in May 2000 (Num. law: 211/2000 Z. z.). Under the law, everybody can demand information from state institutions, organizations, from municipalities, individuals and legal entities financed by the public budget.[53]


Slovenia passed the Access to Public Information Act in March 2003.[54] The Act governs the procedure which ensures everyone free access to public information held by state bodies, local government bodies, public agencies, public funds and other entities of public law, public powers holders and public service contractors.[55]

South Africa

South Africa passed the Promotion of Access to Information Act on 2 February 2000. It is intended "To give effect to the constitutional right of access to any information held by the State and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights"; the right of access to privately held information is an interesting feature, as most freedom of information laws only cover governmental bodies. See Promotion of access to information act for more information.

South Korea

The Constitutional Court ruled in 1989 that there is a constitutional right to information "as an aspect of the right of freedom of expression and specific implementing legislation to define the contours of the right was not a prerequisite to its enforcement."

The Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies was enacted in 1996 and went into effect in January 1998. It allows citizens to demand information held by public agencies.


In Sweden, the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 granted public access to government documents. It thus became an integral part of the Swedish Constitution, and the first ever piece of freedom of information legislation in the modern sense. In Swedish this is known as the Principle of Public Access (offentlighetsprincipen),[56] and has been valid since.

The Principle of Public Access means that the general public are to be guaranteed an unimpeded view of activities pursued by the government and local authorities; all documents handled by the authorities are public unless legislation explicitly and specifically states otherwise, and even then each request for potentially sensitive information must be handled individually, and a refusal is subject to appeal. Further, the constitution grants the Right to Inform, meaning that even some (most) types of secret information may be passed on to the press or other media without risk of criminal charges. Instead, investigation of the informer's identity is a criminal offense.

However it has been mentioned in the media that non-illegal harassment of a public employee who has informed media is not forbidden. For example, one of the most debated events was from 1977 when a ship[57] ran aground, the shipping authority blamed the pilot, but a map engineer in the shipping authority informed the media that it was the shipping authority's fault. In retribution, the shipping authority changed his work location assignment to a lighthouse.

Republic of China

The "The Freedom of Government Information Law" (政府資訊公開法), enacted by the Legislative Yuan of the ROC government in Taiwan, has been in force since 28 December 2005.[58]


In Thailand, the relevant legislation is the Official Information Act of 1997.

Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobago, the relevant legislation is the Freedom of Information Act, 1999.


In Turkey, the Turkish Law on the Right to Information (Bilgi Edinme Hakkı Kanunu) was signed on October 24, 2003 and it came into effect 6 months later on April 24, 2004.


In Uganda, the Access to Information Act was approved in 2005 and went into effect in 2006.


The 1996 Constitution does not include a specific general right of access to information but contains a general right of freedom of collect and disseminate information and rights of access to personal and environmental information.

The 1992 Law on Information is a general information policy framework law that includes a citizen's a right to access information. The law allows citizens and legal entities to request access to official documents. The request can be oral or written. The government body must respond in 10 calendar days and provide the information within a month unless provided by law.

Law on Access to Public Information was adopted 13 January 2011. It widens the range of subjects, obliged to provide information, gives legislative definition of public information and makes public information accessible with statutory restrictions.[59][60]

United Kingdom

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (2000 c. 36) is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom on a national level, with the exception of Scottish bodies, which are covered by the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (2002 asp. 13). Environmental information is covered by further legislation Environmental Information Regulations 2004. Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister who introduced the Freedom of Information Act, later expressed regret over the Act, claiming that the Act impeded the ability of officials to deliberate "with a reasonable level of confidentiality".[61]

United States

In the United States the Freedom of Information Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect the following year. Ralph Nader has been credited with the impetus for creating this act, among others.[62] The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments were signed by President Bill Clinton on October 2, 1996.

The Act applies only to federal agencies. However, all of the states, as well as the District of Columbia and some territories, have enacted similar statutes to require disclosures by agencies of the state and of local governments, though some are significantly broader than others. Some state and local government agencies attempt to get around state open records laws by claiming copyright for their works and then demanding high fees to license the public information.[63]:441–42 The ruling in Santa Clara v. CFAC will likely curtail the abuse of copyright to avoid public disclosure in California, but agencies in other states like Texas and New York continue to hide behind copyright.[citation needed] Some states expand government transparency through open meeting laws, which require government meetings to be announced in advance and held publicly.


The Act was enacted in 2008 under President Vazquez's Administration and is mainly implemented by the Judiciary.


In Zimbabwe, the Access to Information and Privacy Act (AIPPA) was signed by their President Robert Mugabe in February 2002.

Pending legislation by country

  • In Argentina, national freedom of information legislation is pending, though some individual regions have legislation on a local level.
  • In Barbados, the Government headed by David Thompson has proposed to put in place a Freedom of Information Bill.[64] The Government has launched various initiatives to vett the proposed bill with the citizens of the country for comment.
  • In Botswana, as of 2003, the government was quoted as saying "The Freedom of Information Bill is not a priority for the new ministry, but some activities like information gathering and initial planning will start."[65]
  • In the Cayman Islands, the Freedom of Information Regulations Act 2008 is expected to go into effect on January 1, 2009.[66]
  • In Fiji, the constitution gives a general right of access, but enabling legislation has not yet been passed. A draft Freedom of Information Bill was circulated in 2000 but derailed by political unrest; the government has not yet begun work on a second bill.
  • In Ghana, the Right to Information Bill 2003 was resubmitted to the Cabinet in 2005.
  • In Indonesia, the House of Representatives drafted and submitted a freedom of information bill in 2004,and in 2008 passed with the name Public Information Openness Law.
  • In Jordan, there is a draft Law on the Guarantee of Access to Information which was passed onto Parliament at the end of 2005.
  • In Kenya, the draft Freedom of Information Act 2007 will soon be tabled into Parliament.
  • In Lesotho, the Access and Receipt of Information Bill was before Parliament in 2003-4, but the current status of the legislation is unknown
  • In the Maldives, there is currently no freedom of information legislation. In 2004, the government announced that a bill was expected to be passed in that year, but this has not yet transpired.
  • In Mozambique, the government produced a draft Freedom of Information Bill in August 2005. It is expected to become law within two years.
  • In Nauru, the Freedom of Information Act 2004 was laid before the parliament in that year, but was not passed. Further work on the legislation is currently being held back, pending a review of the country’s Constitution.
  • Philippines. Article III, Section 7 of the country's Bill of Rights recognizes the people's right to information on matters of public concern. Its Supreme Court has upheld this right in many of its decisions. However, there is no legislation that sets the procedures for access and disclosure of information and provides penalties for officials who fail to release the requested information, without justifiable reasons. In 2008, the Lower House of the Philippine Congress passed House Bill No. 3732 (Freedom of Information Act) that addresses these gaps. A counterpart bill is still pending in the Philippine Senate. Leading the campaign for the bill's passage is the Access to Information Network, co-convened by Action For Economic Reforms and Transparency and Accountability Network.
  • In Sri Lanka, the 2004 draft Freedom of Information Act has been endorsed by both major parties, but had not been passed as of January 2005.

(Unless stated otherwise, information is current as of July 2008).

See also


  1. ^ Staples, William R. (2007). Encyclopedia of privacy. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. p. 240. ISBN 0-313-33478-1. "The world's oldest freedom of information law was enacted by Sweden in 1766." 
  2. ^ Mazhar Siraj (2010). "Exclusion of Private Sector from Freedom of Information Laws: Implications from a Human Rights Perspective". Journal of Alternative Perspectives on Social Sciences 2 (1): 211–226. 
  3. ^ (English)
  4. ^ (Albanian)
  5. ^ F.O.I. Center - Association of an Investigative Journalists of Armenia
  6. ^ "ACT legislation register - Freedom of Information Act 1989 - main page". Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  7. ^ "New South Wales Consolidated Acts: Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009". 2010-11-16. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ "Right to Information Act 2009". The Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel. 2010-11-01. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  10. ^ "South Australian Consolidated Acts: Freedom Of Information Act 1991". Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  11. ^ "Tasmanian Consolidated Acts: Right to Information Act 2009". 2009-12-07. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  12. ^ State of Victoria, Australia, Department of Justice (2010-09-14). "Freedom of Information". Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  13. ^ "Office of the Information Commissioner (WA) Home Page". State of Western Australia. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  14. ^ "Bangladesh Right to Information Ordinance, No. 50 of 2008 (Bangla)" (in Bangla). Ministry of Information, Press Information Department. 2008-10-21. Retrieved 2008-10-29. [dead link]
  15. ^
  16. ^ "The Dark Country". Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  17. ^ "Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Open Government Information (中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例)" (in Chinese). Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  18. ^ Croatian Parliament (2003-10-21). "Zakon o pravu na pristup informacijama" (in Croatian). NN 172/2003. Narodne novine. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  19. ^ Another 106 Answers to your Questions (With Judgements) is a useful English-language guide to the Act.
  20. ^ "Parliament of Estonia, Public Information Act Passed 15 November 2000". 2000-11-15. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  21. ^ Grand Chamber judgment on application no. 14967/89 See para. 50-60, as well as concurring opinion of Mrs Palm, joined by Mr Bernhardt, Mr Russo, Mr Macdonald, Mr Makarczyk and Mr van Dijk, partly dissenting opinion of Mr Thór Vilhjálmsson, concurring opinion of Mr Jambrek
  22. ^ "PACE resolution no. 1087 (1996) on the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster". 1996-04-26. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  23. ^ Convention on Access to Official Documents
  24. ^ Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents
  25. ^ Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Act on the Openness of Government Activities, Finnish Ministry of Justice". 2007-05-31. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  28. ^ "Act to Regulate Access to German Federal Government Information (Freedom of Information Act – FOIA)" (PDF). 2005-11-05. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  29. ^ Article 5 of the Administrative Procedures Code — Document Access (in Greek)
  30. ^ Code on Access to Information
  31. ^ Roberts, Alasdair S., A Great and Revolutionary Law? The First Four Years of India's Right to Information Act (January 9, 2010). Available at SSRN.
  32. ^, Appointment of bureaucrat as Punjab CIC draws flak
  33. ^ Indian Right to Information Act[dead link]
  34. ^ RTI India: The Complete Right to Information Portal of India.
  35. ^ For a comparison between Indian and British legislative efforts see British Council India's LEGAL eNEWS
  36. ^ [[dead link]
  37. ^ "Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003". 2003-04-11. Retrieved 2010-11-29. 
  38. ^ Harney accused over 'new culture of secrecy' in Health - National News, Frontpage -
  39. ^
  40. ^ Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications(総務省)Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs, Main Points of the Law Concerning Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs
  41. ^ Judgment 04-02(99)
  42. ^ "Ellen Signs "Freedom of Information Act" into Law". Daily Observer. 10 October 2010. 
  43. ^ "Liberian President Signs Freedom of Information Act Into Law". 8 October 2010. 
  44. ^ "Selangor passes Freedom of Information Enactment". Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  45. ^ "Penang passes Freedom of Information Bill". Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  46. ^ "Jonathan signs FoI Bill". Daily Independence. 31 May 2011. 
  47. ^ Freedom of Information Act, Norway
  48. ^ Freedom of Information Act, 1070, Norway
  49. ^ Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -
  50. ^
  51. ^ Access to Public Information: Guide for Citizens
  52. ^ Transparency of Decision-Making in Public Administration - citizens and administration guide
  53. ^ Zakon o slobodnom pristupe k informaciam
  54. ^
  55. ^, Commissioner's site
  56. ^ The Principle of Public Access
  57. ^ Tsesis
  58. ^ The Freedom of Government Information Law (政府資訊公開法)(English Translation)
  59. ^ Lawyer:Law on access to public information gives no clear definition of such information, Kyiv Post (May 11, 2011)
  60. ^ (Ukrainian) Про доступ до публічної інформації, Verkhovna Rada (13 January 2011)
  61. ^ Rosenbaum, Martin (1 September 2010). "Why Tony Blair thinks he was an idiot". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  62. ^
  63. ^ Petersen, Barbara A. (1992), "Copyright and State Government: An Analysis of Section 119.083, Florida's Software Copyright Provision" (in English), Florida State University Law Review 20 (2): 441–486., 
  64. ^
  65. ^ Uproar over draconian Media Bill
  66. ^

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