The World Prepares for International Right To Know Day, 28 September 2009

25 September 2009

The 7th International Right to Know Day on 28th of September 2009 will mark a year of historic advances for the right of access to information and will be celebrated by the Freedom of Information Advocate’s Network which has around 200 organizations in 75 countries who are calling for universal respect for the public’s right to know.

The aim of Right to Know Day is to raise awareness of every individual’s right of access to government-held information: the right to know how elected officials are exercising power and how taxpayers’ money is being spent. Freedom of information advocates have used the day to share ideas, strategies, and success stories about the development of freedom of information laws and the goals of open government.

The year 2009 saw the following advances in the right to access information held by government bodies:

  • At least 90 countries and territories around the world now have laws giving members of the public the right to ask for and receive information from public bodies;now have laws giving members of the public the right to ask for and receive information from public bodies;
  • Six (6) new national Access to Information Laws come into force: Bangladesh, the Cayman Islands, Chile, the Cook Islands, Guatemala and Uruguay.
  • The European Court of Human Rights on 14 April 2009 confirmed that the right to receive information from government bodies is part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression and information and is necessary for the media, NGOs and others to play a watchdog role in holding governments accountable.
  • The new Obama administration turned the tables on recent reverses on access to information during the “War on Terror” period and in January 2009 emphasized that obligation of government bodies to publish information proactively without waiting for requests for citizens – something which already a growing practice in many countries around the world.

In spite of these advances, the implementation of these national access to information laws in practice is hugely variable. International Right to Know day aims to raise awareness of the right and increase public demand for full respect for the right to know and the right to ask for information from public bodies at all levels of government.

Here is how some civil society organizations around the world are celebrating International Right to Know Day.


Argentina

Association for Civil Right (ADC) in Argentina, in coordination with the international group Journalists for Access to Public Information, will release a special press bulletin on the status of government openness in Argentina and other countries throughout Latin America. The bulletin will include interviews from leading open government advocates in the region, and will be distributed to media outlets covering transparency issues on Right to Know Day 2009.


Armenia

The Armenian FOI Center will hold its Annual FOI Award Ceremony on September 28. An independent jury has reviewed journalists, NGOs, citizens, and state institutions in the following categories:

  • for a journalist or media organization with the best FOI-related article or broadcast
  • for an NGO that has contributed to the exercise of the right to information
  • for a citizen who has actively exercised his/her right of access to information under the FOI Law
  • for a state institution with the best system of providing information
  • for a state institution with the best e-governance system (official web site and internal systems for providing information)

A special award will be given to a Judge that has restored the right to information in the face of a violation. In addition, the dubious distinction of two negative awards will be given out:

  • to a state institution that has not fulfilled its obligations to freedom of information.
  • to a state institution that has authored the most ridiculous official answer.

This year the event will be attended by the RA Prime Minister Mr. Tigran Sargsyan, the head of the OSCE office in Yerevan Sergey Kapinos and the USAID/Armenia Mission Director Dr. Jatinder Cheema. Winners of positive awards will receive Golden Key Awards; winners of negative awards will be awarded with a Lock.


Bulgaria

The 7th annual Right to Know Day Awards Ceremony in Bulgaria will be held on September 28, 2009 at 10 a.m. in the National Press Center of the Bulgarian News Agency in Sofia (49 Tsarigradsko Shose Blvd). The Access to Information Program (AIP) collected nominations in 7 categories to recognize citizens, NGOs, and journalists who actively exercise their right of access to information and institutions which fulfill their obligations under the Access to Public Information Act. AIP will also give negative awards to shame institutions that do not fulfill their obligations and violate citizens’ access to information right.

A thirty-minute documentary Right to Know Day was produced by ProMedia – Broadcasting Training Center Foundation within the framework of the project Local Media and Freedom of Information in Bulgaria implemented by The Management & Media Academy/Free Voice and AIP with the financial support of the MATRA Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The movie is in Bulgarian but is accessible with subtitles in English as well.


Canada

To start of a week of Right to Know Day events, there will be a National Town Hall event in Ottawa, September 28, 2009 at 7 p.m. (EST). A range of distinguished panelists will share their experience and thoughts on various topics related to the right to know, including: the role of media as catalysts, the right of citizens to hold Parliament accountable, and access to information in a digital age. The event will be broadcast live on the internet.

In addition to a full week of national events in Ottawa, provincial events are planned for the entire week, including:

  • Manitoba: A series of workshops have been organized by Canadian Association of Journalists (Manitoba), Canadian Taxpayers Federation (Manitoba), and Red River College. There will also be a public presentation, organized by the Manitoba Right to Know Committee 2009, by Janet Keeping, President of the Calgary-based Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, who will bring a human rights perspective to the understanding of Right to Know in her keynote address, “The Struggle against Corruption: The Rule of Law and ‘Right to Know’: an international perspective.”
  • New Brunswick: Prior to the national event, there will be a Town Hall Session: Right to Know and Public Engagement, organized by the Office of the Ombudsman for New Brunswick at the UNB Faculty of Law, Ludlow Hall, Room 2, Fredericton, NB.
  • Ontario: Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian is sending teams to three Ontario cities on Monday, September 28, to set up information tables, where the teams will hand out IPC publications and answer questions from the public.
  • Saskatchewan: an RTK week kick-off party at the University of Regina, the presentation of the Chief Justice E.M. Culliton ‘Right to Know’ Award, and a film festival

This is just a small sample of all the events in Canada. Find out more about Canadian national and provincial events for the week at the Right to Know website.


Dominican Republic

Participación Ciudadana in the Dominican Republic is celebrating Right to Know Day, focusing on human rights aspects of government transparency by hosting a panel with open government advocates entitled “The Right to Access Public Information from the Human Rights Perspective.” The event will take place on September 28th, at 6pm in Hotel Santo Domingo.


Macedonia

This year’s activities will include a press conference, organized by Foundation Open Society Institute – Macedonia (FOSIM), which will include representatives from the Commission for the Protection of the Right to Access to Information of Public Character, the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA) and the Youth Educational Forum (YEF) will each present a specific problem they face in the process of implementation and the monitoring of implementation of the Macedonian FOI law.

Furthermore, on 28 September, FOSIM will publish an announcement in the four most circulated daily newspapers in Macedonia, one of which is published in Albanian language. The announcement, apart from general information on the Right to Know Day and the right to access to information, will include data obtained from the survey on public perception of FOI in Macedonia, conducted by FOSIM in 2009.

Also, PRO MEDIA has finished its second monitoring report on FAI based on the content of the web pages of the institutions. The report was distributed the report to the media and institutions at the last week of August.


Mexico

Mexico City’s Federal Access to Public Information Institute (InfoDF) will host the capital’s first Feria de la Transparencia – a major gathering in Mexico City’s central plaza, the Zocalo. The event is part of Mexico’s nation-wide transparency celebration—México Infórmate—a week-long event aimed at promoting the use of transparency laws to combat corruption and impunity in Mexico. Dozens of media groups and advocate organizations will take part in the week’s events. The initiative is coordinated by the National Security Archive’s Mexico Transparency Program.


Serbia

On September 28, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, the OSCE Mission to Serbia, and the NGO Coalition for Freedom of Information and Independent Association of Journalists are marking the Right to Know Day with an awards ceremony. The recipients of the awards were selected by representatives of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, the Leskovac People’s Parliament, the Open Society Foundation, the citizen association Sretenje from Pozega, and Transparency Serbia.

The Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, Rodoljub Sabic, will present the awards to those public authorities that have contributed most to the promotion and protection of RTI. One public authority will be given a small statue to display their commitment to access to information for the year. There are 5 categories—the highest authorities (Parliament, President, Government, Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, and Rep. Gen. Attorney), the judiciary, and republic, autonomous provinces, and local self-government authorities, respectively.

The Coalition for Freedom of Information and Independent Association of Journalists will distribute T-shirts and leaflets to citizens. This year will also have an exhibition of caricatures—a retrospective of one renowned cartoonist’s work for FOIA since 2006.


United States

American University Washington College of Law and the Collaboration on Government Secrecy will host its Third Annual International Right-to-Know Day Celebration on September 28, from 10am to 4pm, at the International Student Lounge on the American University campus, 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20016. Register by emailing secle@wcl.american.edu.

The event will feature a keynote presentation by Alasdair S. Roberts,Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School, Boston, Massachusetts, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University College London. A survey of transparency worldwide will be presented by Tom Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive; Jamie P. Horsley, Deputy Director of the China Law Center, Yale Law School; and Toby McIntosh, Steering Committee Coordinator from Global Transparency Initiative and veteran contributor to freedominfo.org’s IFTI Watch.

A session will include an audio feed from the Sixth International Conference of Information Commissioners in Oslo, Norway, featuring Kevin Dunion,Information Commissioner of Scotland, and Arne Fliflet, Information Commissioner of Norway.

Kevin M. Goldberg, Legal Counsel, American Society of Newspaper Editors; Miriam M. Nisbet, Founding Director, Office of Government Information Services, NARA, and most recentlyDirector, Information Society Division, UNESCO, Paris; and John Verdi, Director of the Open Government Project at EPIC.


Venezuela

The Pro Acceso Coalition and the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (YPIS) will launch its third annual “Access to Public Information Month.” The month-long event begins on Right to Know Day and includes a major international seminar on access to information, set to take place in Caracas on October 7th.


Regional / Latin America

The Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information (Alianza Regional para la Libertad de Expresión e Información) will present its new report on Latin America’s access to information laws to the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (part of the Organization of American States – OAS), and disseminate the report to NGOs working on information issues in the Americas.


IFTI / World Bank

The World Bank will hold a discussion with civil society organizations and World Bank staff on September 28 from 12:30-2:00pm. Discussants at “Looking Forward: Access to Information at the World Bank” will examine the future direction of the World Bank’s access to information framework.

The session will consist of a moderated discussion with Peter Harrold, Director, OPCOS, World Bank and Toby Mendel, Global Transparency Initiative and Senior Legal Advisor, Article 19.

The World Bank will soon adopt a new policy on disclosure of information. Civil society organizations, such as the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI), have offered significant proposals for increasing the transparency of the World Bank and other international financial institutions.  The event will provide an opportunity for the World Bank to outline its forthcoming disclosure policy proposals. In addition, the Global Transparency Initiative will provide an overview of recent global trends in access to information and outline its recent “model disclosure policy” for the World Bank.

 

 

by Yvette M. Chin

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , ,

Filed under: What's New