FOI Notes: Mexico, US, UK, India, Open Data, EU, Virgin Islands, Nepal, OGP

30 December 2015

WPFD 2016: The website for the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day 2016 now includes a Concept Note  about the themes the 2016 event: freedom of information and sustainable development. The Concept Note includes “Points to Ponder” such as: “How to mainstream SDG Goal 16, Target 10 – public access and fundamental freedoms – within development policies and budgetary planning?”

The event will be held in Helsinki, Finland, May 2-4. No detailed schedule of events or sign-up information has been posted. A contest was held for a graphic design emphasizing the conference theme: “This Is Your Right! Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms.” The deadline passed Nov. 25 and no winner has been announced yet. (See report on other plans for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Swedish/Finnish FOI law.)

Mexico: The number of information requests in 2015. The total of 150,595 was a 4.6 percent increase compared with 2014, according to a report by the National Institute of Transparency and Access to Information.

United States: Steve Vladeck writes about an upcoming oral argument at the US Supreme Court concerning a FOIA lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy and Information Center that may result in a decision on “a very important (but little noticed) circuit split over the scope of FOIA’s “Exemption 7(F),” which allows the government to withhold “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information … could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.” Vladeck continues:

The central question raised by Exemption 7(F) is whether the government has to be able to identify with any specificity the “individual” whose life or physical safety might be endangered by disclosure of the requested law enforcement records. In 2008, the Second Circuit answered that question in the affirmative in ACLU v. Dep’t of Defense. In its February 2015 decision affirming the government’s rejection of EPIC’s FOIA request, the D.C. Circuit held expressly to the contrary. As I explain in the post that follows, not only is this division of authority sufficiently important so as to justify the Supreme Court’s intervention no matter how the Court ultimately rules, but, in my view, the Second Circuit clearly has the better reading of Exemption 7(F) as a matter of statutory purpose, structure, and policy.

India: Peter Jacob reports in The News on Sunday on the RTI law in Punjab.

United Kingdom: “Disruptive, Dynamic and Democratic? Ten Years of FOI in the UK,” a paper by Ben Worthy and Robert Hazell. A summary says: “They conclude that FOI has met its ‘core’ objectives, making central government more transparent and accountable. However, it has not improved decision-making, public understanding, participation or trust. Nor has FOI significantly changed how government works, despite politicians’ fears of a chilling effect.”

Virgin Islands: A Daily News article by Ashley Mayrianne Jones says some agencies are providing salary data, but some are not.

United States: Reporter Kelly Hinchcliffe writes for The Poynter Institute about the use of FOI to break stories in all 50 states.

European Union: The use of personal data protection as a justification by parliamentarians for refusing requests for access to documents is addressed in a European Law Blog post by Elinor Pecsteen.

Open Data: The Global Open Data Index 2015 has faults writes Hatem Ben Yacoub, Tunisian, ICT and EGOV consultant. He concludes: “In my humble opinion, the GODI 2015 totally missed the point, and the result is very confusing and far from being accurate. For researchers and professionals interested in Open Data, you can still use the GODI 2015, but with caution.”

IFTI Watch: Transparency in International Investment Arbitration: A guide to the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-Based Investor–State Arbitration, a book by Dimitrij Euler, Markus Gehring, and Maxi Scherer (editors), published by Cambridge University Press, August 2015. “This in-depth commentary analyses each paragraph of the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules, and explains the underlying debate for a broader context. Available

Nepal: National Information Commissioner Kiran Pokharel says women and other disadvantaged groups should be made aware of their right to information, according to an article by The Himalayan News Service.

United Kingdom: The Cabinet Office releases fewer documents than normal, The Daily Mail reports.

Africa: “Pushing the open government movement forward across Africa,” an article by Stephen Abbott Pugh on the International Journalists’ Network blog.

OGP: Article 19, Civicus and Publish What You Pay send a joint letter to the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) calling on them to ensure that civil society organizations can participate in and influence Azerbaijan’s OGP action plan. Also see posting on the OGP blog about civic space, written by Cathal Gilbert and Tanja Hafner Ademi.

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