FOI Notes: India, Commentary, Europe, US, Pakistan, Fiji, Myanmar, Environmental Transparency, Open Data

23 November 2016

India: Trust Through Transparency, a glossy 120-page book with stories and pictures about individual successes using the RTI Act is published by the Central Information Commission. See MoneyLife description. Some RTI activists condemn the coffee table book as a wasteful expenditure, according to The Hindu.

Commentary: “Is Open Data the Death of FOIA?” an article by Beth Simone Noveck, Yale law professor, published in the Yale Law Journal:

I argue that open data’s more systematic and collaborative approach represents a radical and welcome departure from FOIA because open data concentrates on information as a means to solve problems to the end of improving government effectiveness. Open data is legitimated by the improved outcomes it yields and grounded in a theory of government effectiveness and, as a result, eschews the adversarial and ad hoc FOIA approach. Ultimately, however, each tactic offers important complementary benefits. The proactive information disclosure regime of open data is strengthened by FOIA’s rights of legal enforcement. Together, they stand to become the hallmark of government transparency in the fifty years ahead.

Her essay is one of several papers included in a special issue on FOIA.

Another is “The “Freedom From InformationAct: A Look Back at Nader, FOIA, and What Went Wrong,” by David E. McGraw, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at The New York Times Company.

Over the years, advocacy groups like the ACLU, the National Security Archive, and Nader’s own Public Citizen have filled the void by bringing important public-interest FOIA litigation. Though they have had some notable successes, it is hard not to conclude that the courts have failed FOIA and, indeed, have been a bigger disappointment than the agencies themselves. People accept that bureaucracies will be bureaucracies, and their capacity for reform, creativity, and courage is always institutionally constrained. Not so for the courts. Courts could have advanced a revolution of openness by construing FOIA’s reach broadly, bringing its flawed provisions in line with its purpose, reining in unwarranted expansion of the exemptions, and combating the culture of agency delay. They largely chose another course, and fifty years later the public continues to await FOIA’s promise.

Europe: More on the European Court of Human Rights ruling, this time a post in Cyberlaw Clinic by Nani Jansen Reventlow and Jonathan McCully. A key bit:

In its judgment, despite the growing international consensus, the Grand Chamber determined that the default position under Article 10 was that there is no self-standing right of access to State-held information, and that there is no corresponding obligation on a State to disclose such information. Nonetheless, the Court did recognize that such a right or obligation may arise in two categories of cases: (1) where disclosure of the information has been imposed by an enforceable judicial order, and (2) in circumstances where access to the information is instrumental for an individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and where its denial constitutes an interference with that right.

The Court went on to set out four principles, drawn from its more recent case law relating to access to information, that could be relied on to determine whether a denial of access falls within the second category of case.

Pakistan: State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb says an RTI bill has been approved by the Cabinet and would be introduced in the National Assembly shortly, The News says. The joint opposition decides to introduce its own drafted RTI bill, according to another News article.

United States: David Ferriero, the Archivist, announces that Alina Semo will be the new director of the Office of Government Information Services, the FOIA ombudsman. Semo has been the Director of Litigation in the Office of General Counsel at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) since March 2014, where she participated in rewriting NARA’s FOIA regulations. Prior to NARA, Semo led the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s FOIA Litigation Unit in the Office of the General Counsel for over a decade and served as a trial attorney in the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Myanmar: A discussion on a Right to Information Law was held, reports the Myanmar Times, “… with attendees saying the lack of information surrounding development of the draft Right to Information bill neatly underscores the country’s glaring lack of transparency.”

Fiji: The Social Democratic Liberal Party makes recommendations on that the right of access to information, The Fiji Times reports. “All information, not only information that is created after the coming into force of the Bill, should be available.”

United States: “The Media under Trump: Make FOIA Great Again,” writes Philip Eil in the Columbia Journalism Review.

United States: FOIA likley won’t be a priority for President-elect Trump, according to Jason Koebler, writing in Motherboard.

United States: Final transparency requests are sent to Barack Obama by open government groups.

United States: “No Sunshine: Too many Missouri local governments ignore requests for information,” according to an article by Marshall Griffin about a report by State Auditor Nicole Galloway on test request sent to more than 300 local governments.

Environmental Transparency: An update on upcoming negotiations for a Regional Agreement on Access Rights regarding environmental matters.

Open Data: A summary by the Open Data Institute of studies showing the value of open data.

Open Data: A report on a series of 12 freedom of information requests for regulatory data to the European Medicines Agency.

WIPO: The World Intellectual Property Organization announced its new Open Access policy.




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