FOI Notes: Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Philippines, OGP, Nigeria, Pakistan, US

13 April 2017

Italy: The new law on administrative transparency has not generated the expected results, according to report described in (in Italian). Of 800 applications sent by 56 volunteers, seven out of ten received no reply within the 30 days provided for by law, according to study by Diritto di Sapere (Right to Know). See official data on the new law here.

India: Many reactions and comments about the proposed new rules on the RTI Act (See previous report).

  • Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad said the right to withdraw an RTI petition is not required, DNA India
  • Commentary critical of the proposed rules by the Financial Express begins: “Given how the Right to Information (RTI) Act has become a powerful tool in the hands of citizens to ensure accountability from public authorities, it is only expected that the political class would want to shield itself from the kind of scrutiny this has enabled.
  • Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said the provision on the abatement of proceedings in case of death of the applicant should be changed. He said allowing withdrawal of RTI appeals would be a direct encouragement to undesirable pressure on applicants, and deal making. “
  • “The Good, The Bad And The Worrisome Of The Draft RTI Rules,” an article by Madhumita D. Mitra
  • Why is the Modi Govt Bringing Back Provisions That Can Potentially Threaten an RTI Activist’s Life? writes Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar in The Wire.
  • “New RTI Draft Rules an Invitation to Murder of Activists?, asks Vinita Deshmukh.

Sri Lanka: “For the past two months, the use of RTI has been quite diverse and vigorous,” writes Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, a commissioner on Sri Lanka’s RTI Commission as the nominee of organizations of editors and publishers.

Ireland: The High Court support the Information Commissioner’s decision that a journalist was entitled to commercial information about the State’s fibre-optic network under the Freedom of Information Act, according to The Irish Times.

Philippines: The Philippine News Agency reports on efforts to encourage local governments to adopt FOI laws.

Nigeria: The Adamawa State government has dismissed a request for details on how it utilized the first tranche of Paris Club refunds it received from the federal government, saying it is under no obligation to provide requested information because the national FOI legislation has not been domesticated in the state.

OGP: Civil society’s priorities for the Open Government Partnership are described by Manish Bapna, co-chair of the OGP Steering Committee and executive vice president and managing director of the World Resources Institute. He lists three top goals:

First, we must improve the “rules of the game,” the framework that governs participation of governments and civil society in OGP.

Second, we must do more to get ambition and implementation right at the country level.

Third, we must build an even stronger, more cohesive open government movement if OGP is to be successful in the current challenging global context.

A longer account, “Key takeaways” from a March civil society “retreat” is posted on the OGP website, along with the agendas for two OGP subcommittee meetings.

Commentary: “Beneficial Openness: Is More Transparency Always Better?” writes Maya Forstater, concluding:

The case for broad financial transparency is often made on the basis that the mechanisms would be cheap and easy, and that the impacts would be huge. My paper argues that there are different options—and pros and cons—and that dialogue needs to shift beyond pro and anti transparency positions to learning and evidence on what works. There good cases for public transparency in areas such as the extractive industries, fisheries, and public contracting but it does not necessarily follow that similar transparency requirements should be imposed on all companies and asset owners. Simple, clear solutions are helpful for complex problems to gain political and public momentum. But the strategic view of transparency as a means to an end suggests that particular mechanisms should not become so iconic that they become unquestioned goals in their own right.

Denmark: Environment minister Esben Lunde Larsen tells staffers he will determine what gets released, criticizing the access law, according to a report in Politiken (in Danish) based on a leaked audio tape of a staff meeting.

ICANN: Almost 60 organizations have urged a more robust transparency policy at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN), writing in a letter that ICANN’s current Documentary Information Disclosure Policy policy has many positive features, but also some “overly broad exceptions, many of which do not include any requirement for harm.” The letter endorses a set of Recommendations for improving the policy developed by a multistakeholder ICANN working group, and urges their adoption.

Pakistan: Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair signs into law the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Law 2016 passed by the provincial assembly last month, The News reports.

United States: The National Security Archive, together with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security for the release of the White House visitor logs, according to Archive announcement.

Freedom House: The United States-based group Freedom House says democracy dropped in more than half of the countries it studied last year. The findings are part of a new report called “Nations in Transit 2017.” Freedom House rated 29 countries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in Central Asia. All 29 were once under Communist Party rule

India: The state information commission in Jammu & Kashmir has directed more voluntary disclosure of information by June 30, 2017. The move is praised as “a welcome step” by Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Founder of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement.

Albania: An article on a recent RTI conference.


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