International Right to Know Day 2008: Global Phenomenon Now Includes More Than 80 Countries

28 September 2008

Washington, D.C., September 28, 2008 – Today’s celebration of International Right-to-Know Day marks a new watershed in the global reach of freedom of information laws – now on the books in more than 80 countries – and features celebrations in countries ranging from Mexico to Moldova, according to postings today on the www.freedominfo.org virtual network of international openness advocates.

Some 86 countries and autonomous jurisdictions now have enacted some form of a freedom of information law guaranteeing the right of access to government-held information, according to a new survey compiled by Dutch journalist Roger Vleugels for International Right-to-Know Day.

Open government advocates in Mexico have organized a week-long series of events under the rubric of “Mexico Abierto” beginning today, while the Information Commissioner of Canada and other organizations have organized events at both the federal and provincial level there to celebrate Right to Know Week. On September 28 and during the following week, activists around the world are holding seminars, training sessions, coordinated information request filings, and award ceremonies such as the “Bronze Bell” awards in Moldova for consistency and courage in promotion of free access to information.

Noted transparency scholar Alasdair Roberts (now based at Suffolk University Law School, Boston, Massachusetts) estimated this year that the reach of freedom of information laws has now expanded to cover not just millions of people, as in the traditional FOI countries beginning in Scandinavia (Sweden-Finland in 1766 were the first), but billions of people, with the passage of the Indian Right-to-Information Act and the new information regulations developed by the People’s Republic of China.

Latin American countries in particular are witnessing new energy and milestones in expanding the right to know, in large part as a result of the landmark decision by the InterAmerican Human Rights Court in the case of Reyes v. Chile (2006) that access to government information is a fundamental human right.

The International Right-to-Know Day was first established by a group of primarily Eastern European openness advocates who met in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002, and first celebrated in 20033. The activist network has now expanded to more than 200 organizations and individuals worldwide linked in through www.foiadvocates.net and the www.freedominfo.org network.

Members of the network coordinated by Access-InfoEurope have led the campaign to prevent the Council of Europe from adopting a lowest-common-denominator convention on information access.

The Open Society Institute Justice Initiative, which has been a long-time supporter of worldwide FOI advocacy, is marking International Right-to-Know Day 2008 by launching an invaluable new online resource of comparative analysis of international right-to-know legal and constitutional provisions, at www.right2info.org.


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