Access to Information


To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
The main principles of access to public and official information are laid out in the constitution. Additionally, the Public Information Act has been in force since 2001, and the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) since 2007. The act is enforced by the Data Protection Inspectorate (DPI), which acts as an ombudsman and preliminary court, educator, adviser, auditor and law-enforcement agency.

Because internet use is widespread in Estonia, the strategic policy has been to advance access to information by using official websites and portals. Estonia keeps an official gateway to all government information and public services ( All municipalities, political parties and government institutions must maintain a website, which must contain at least the information defined by legal acts. The situation is annually monitored and evaluated by the DPI. The DPI also monitors state authorities’ web pages and document registries.

Public access to information must be prompt and straightforward, with restrictions strictly defined by law. Any citizen or resident can submit an oral or written information request to the government and officials must provide a response within five working days. The obligations of authorities under the Public Information Act are not only to provide information, but also to assist the public in accessing documents. In conjunction with the European Union’s GDPR, the national PDPA was amended in 2019.
The public’s access to government information is in principle unrestricted. In accordance with the Finnish constitution, every Finnish citizen has the right of access to public documents and recordings. This right includes access to documents and recordings in the possession of government authorities, unless their publication has for some compelling reason been restricted by a government act. However, special categories are secret and exempt from release, including documents that relate to foreign affairs, criminal investigations, the police, security services and military intelligence. Such documents are usually kept secret for a period of 25 years, unless otherwise stated by law. One such document, the so-called Tiitinen’s List, continues to be highly controversial. The list was handed over to Finland by West Germany in 1990, and is assumed to contain the names of 18 people who allegedly collaborated with the East German Intelligence and Security Service. However, to date, Finnish authorities have refused to release the document.
Finland was among the first countries to sign the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents in 2009. The 1999 act on the openness of government activities stipulates that people asking for information are not required to provide reasons for their request, and that responses to requests must be made within 14 days. Appeals of any denial can be taken to a higher authority and thereafter to the Administrative Court. The Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman can also review the appeal.

In principle, the government of Finland has tried to actively publish information on the COVID-19 pandemic. Up-to-date information on infection rates and their temporal development, the local distribution of infections, information on specific outbreaks, and the indicators upon which the government bases its risk assessments are publicly available, and the data has been communicated in plain language. The government has published information on its crisis management policies. In all of its communication, the government has stressed the scientific basis for its coronavirus actions. Furthermore, the government has encouraged citizens to follow its website, and the website of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), which provide comprehensive and up-to-date information on the coronavirus. The government website contains government decisions, information produced by the ministries on the effects of the coronavirus on different administrative sectors, and topical material on the coronavirus produced by all government ministries (OECD 2020).

Other public authorities and research agencies have also actively produced information on the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. For example, Helsinki Graduate School of Economics established an economic Situation
Room with the aim of supporting rapid decision-making during the coronavirus crisis. The Situation Room consists of leading economists from Helsinki GSE and the VATT Institute for Economic Research, as well as members from several
public authorities. It utilizes data from relevant public and private sources, and produces regular reports for policymakers. The data is collected and organized in close cooperation with Statistics Finland, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Bank of Finland, the Finnish Tax Administration, Kela, and other institutions (Helsinki Graduate School of Economics 2020).
OECD, 2020. OEDC Survey on the STI Policy Response to Covid-19. Accessed 28.12. 2020.
The constitution provides individuals with the right to address the government and receive a materially substantive reply. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), in place since 1998, creates the right to request information and receive a response within 15 days. No reason needs to be given for the request. Information is classified as generally accessible or restricted. Any restrictions on the provision of information must be substantively reasoned in accordance with specific legal guidelines. The FOIA is actively used by the press, NGOs, and the academic community. Appeal procedures are in place, including both an administrative and court review. Government decisions to classify information as restricted have been challenged in the courts, with the courts generally upholding a broad standard of access to information.

Latvia has a number of regulations promoting transparency in the decision-making process, requiring the government to make documents available to the public proactively. Documents regarding draft policies and legislation are freely available online, and cabinet meetings are open to journalists and other observers. Regulations require that many documents be published online for accountability purposes. This includes political-party donations, public officials’ annual income- and financial-disclosure statements, national-budget expenditures, conflict-of-interest statements, and data on public officials disciplined for conflict-of-interest violations.

In addition, the parliament approved a new Law on Whistleblowing in 2018 (in effect from 2019). The law enables whistleblowers to expose offenses that concern the public interest or the interests of certain social groups.
1. Freedom of Information Act, Available at (in Latvian):, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

2. Cabinet of Ministers (2019), Whistleblowers, Available at (in Latvian):, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.
Freedom of information legislation gives every person right of access to official documents held by any public authority. Official documents are defined as information that is recorded and can be listened to, displayed or transferred, and which is either created, dispatched or received by an authority.

All records are indexed at the time of creation or receipt. Some ministries make these electronic indexes available on the internet or through e-mail. Requests can be made in any form (even anonymously) and must be responded to without undue delay, generally (according to Ministry of Justice guidelines) within three days.

Documents can be withheld if they are made secret by another law or if they refer to issues of national security, national defense or international relations, financial management, the minutes of the State Council, appointments or security measures in the civil service, regulatory or oversight measures, test answers, annual fiscal budgets or long-term budgets, or photographs of persons entered in a personal data register. If access is denied, individuals can appeal to a higher authority and then to the parliament’s ombudsman for public administration, or to a court. The ombudsman’s decisions are not binding but are generally followed. There have been very few court cases dealing with this issue.

The 1998 Security Act sets rules on the classification of information. It creates four levels of classification and mandates that information cannot be classified for more than 30 years. The Act on Defense Secrets prohibits the disclosure of military secrets by government officials, as well as the collection (in the form of sketches, photographs or notes) and disclosure of secrets by others, including journalists. Articles 90 and 91 of the criminal code criminalize the disclosure of secrets, and provide for imprisonment of up to 10 years for violations of these provisions.
The Access to Public Administration Files Act (1985) stipulates that, “any person may demand that he be apprised of documents received or issued by an administration authority in the course of its activity.” Exemptions to this framework include, among other matters of criminal justice, access to an authority’s internal case material, and material gathering for the purpose of public statistics or scientific research. The law further describes files that “may be subject to limitations,” related to state security, defense of the realm, protection of Danish foreign policy and Danish external economic interests. This list is rather detailed and open-ended. The act stipulates that requests must be dealt with quickly. If no decision has been made within 10 days, authorities must inform inquiring parties as to why their request has been delayed and when they can expect a decision.

The revised Access to Public Administration Act 2014, approved by a broad majority in parliament, has been criticized for reducing access to documents prepared by government officials in the process of preparing new government policy.

The parliamentary ombudsman can review the decisions by administrative authorities over the disclosure of information. The ombudsman cannot change decisions, but can make recommendations, which are normally followed by the authorities.
Act No. 572, 19 December 1985, The Danish Access to Public Administration Files Act, (accessed 16 April 2013).

“Danish Government Seeks to protect decision documents,” (Accessed 16 April 2013).

“Danish Parliament Adopts Controversial FOI Changes,” (accessed 20 October 2014).

Helle Krunke, “Freedom of Information and Open Government in Denmark,” (Accessed 16 October 2017).

“12 European Countries Sign First International Convention on Access to Official Documents, 19 June 2009,” (accessed 16 April 2013).
The principle of freedom of information is upheld in Lithuania’s constitution and legislation. For instance, the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public states that, “Every individual shall have the right to obtain from state and local authority institutions and agencies and other budgetary institutions public information regarding their activities, their official documents (copies), as well as private information about himself.” Appeals can be made to an internal Appeals Dispute Commission and to administrative courts. Legal measures with regard to access to government information are adequate, and do not create any access barriers to citizens; however, citizens often fail to take advantage of their right to use this information.

Information-access provisions in Lithuania apply to all levels of the executive, yet exclude the legislative branch. The right to request information is held by citizens of and legal residents within Lithuania and European Economic Area states, as well as foreign nationals with a residence permit (in contrast to most OECD countries, where there are no such legal restrictions concerning the status of participants). Following a complaint by 10 media organizations to the parliamentary Ombudsman regarding difficulties in accessing information, the Ombudsman issued a recommendation to the Ministry of Culture asking that journalists’ right to acquire information be promptly respected. The OECD has recommended helping the country’s civil service better understand the added value associated with access to information.

OECD data shows that in comparative terms, Lithuania performs very poorly in the area of government data access. In 2019, it was last in the OECD in terms of data availability and government support for reuse, and fifth from the bottom in terms of data accessibility. Its overall index score was also the worst in the OECD, although it did increase very slightly compared to 2017. The conservative-liberal coalition government formed in late 2020 has a number of provisions in its program relating to open data, and has expressed the intention of improving transparency and citizens’ access to data.
OECD, Open, Useful and Re-usable data (OURdata) Index: 2019, 2020,
OECD, Public Governance Review Lithuania- Fostering Open and Inclusive Policy Making Key Findings and Recommendations. 2015.
Slovenian law guarantees free and quite easy access to official information. Restrictions are few and reasonable (covering mostly national security and secret data issues), and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information. When access to official information is obstructed or denied, the Information Commissioner, an autonomous body that supervises both the protection of personal data as well as access to public information, can be called upon and intervene. In a number of cases, the Information Commissioner has helped citizens and journalists enforce their right of access. The new online application “Supervisor,” set up by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC) as a means of enhancing transparency in the country, has helped the public and the media access some previously restricted financial information. In July 2016 Supervisor was upgraded and integrated into the new web application Erar, also developed by the CPC. The Ministry of Public Administration has developed a publicly available web-based public procurement portal and online statistical tool. The percentage of citizens using the internet for obtaining information from public authorities in Slovenia is above the European average.
European Commission (2020): Digital Government Factsheet 2020: Slovenia. Brussels (
Sweden has been a forerunner when it comes to all issues related to transparency in government and public access to government information and documents. Both the political elite and the public cherish the fundamental principle that all government documents are public, unless they are classified or relate to individual integrity. If anything, the emergence of e-government has further promoted the objective of accessibility and transparency. Sweden is also pursuing greater transparency within the European Commission.

Governmental information, from reports to minutes from meetings and statutes to budget, is available online. The constitution ensures citizen access to all official documents, except in situations when they are classified as secret (Larsson and Bäck 2008).

There have been instances when governmental departments have been slow to provide documents to the public and the media. Media representatives in particular have criticized the government on this matter. Nevertheless, the Swedish government and administration still meet high requirements regarding transparency and publicity (Andersson et al., 2018).
Andersson, Ulrika, Anders Carlander, Elina. Lindgren and Maria Oskarson (eds.) 2018. “Sprickor i Fasaden.” Gothenburg: The SOM Institute.

Larsson, Torbjörn and Henry Bäck. 2008. “Governing and governance in Sweden.” Malmö: Studentlitteratur.
Swiss authorities pursue very open strategies of information release. For example, the website of the federal administration offers access to major sources of political information.

Article 16 of the constitution, dealing with the issue of freedom of opinion and information, states that: “(1) The freedom of opinion and information is guaranteed; (2) Every person has the right to form, express and disseminate opinions freely; (3) Every person has the right to receive information freely, to gather it from generally accessible sources and to disseminate it.”

The Federal Law on the Principle of Administrative Transparency (Loi sur la Transparence, LTrans) was approved in December 2004 and took force in July 2006. The law gives any person the right to consult official documents and obtain information from authorities. The authorities must respond within 20 days. If a request is refused, a citizen can seek redress from the Federal Delegate for Data Protection. However, this law’s coverage is limited, applying to federal public bodies, other organizations and persons who make decisions under the Administrative Procedures Act, and parliamentary services. The Suisse National Bank and the Federal Commission on Banks are exempted. The law also does not apply to official documents concerning civil or criminal law processes, documents relating to foreign policy, or political party dossiers relating to administrative disputes. Consumer organizations have argued that the law contains too many exceptions.

Given these qualifications, it is noteworthy that this law has gained some influence, since the Federal Supreme Court has interpreted it in a liberal way.

In systems of direct democracy, federal governments bear a particular burden in terms of ensuring proper information is provided for referendums. In spring 2019, the Federal Supreme Court overturned a national referendum on how couples should be taxed because the information provided by the executive proved to have been incorrect. In its decision, the Court pointed out that the information provided by the administration on the alternatives in referendums needs to be improved.
Eveline Huegli, Marius Féraud (2014). Evaluation des Bundesgesetzes über das
Öffentlichkeitsprinzip der Verwaltung (BGÖ). Schlussbericht im Auftrag des Bundesamts für Justiz. Bern: Büro Vatter.
Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
If anything, the COVID-19 crisis improved both media access to government information and the media’s scrutiny of the government’s decisions as the waves of infection succeeded one another. Most mainstream media went from an attitude of rubber-stamping government decisions in March 2020 to a relatively constructive questioning of the coherence of the various actions by December 2021. This proactive role has partially spilled over to other areas of concern, like corruption in the former colony of Congo, tax evasion, graft and so on.

The pre-COVID-19 starting point was already quite good. Legally, access to information is expected to be provided without impediment (Belgium was one of the signatories of the Convention on Access to Official Documents in 2009). In practice, some information can be (made) hard to find. This is further complicated by the multilevel structure of state institutions and administration (federal, regional/community, provincial and local), which is additionally characterized by ineffective sharing and aggregation of information across all levels.

However, judicial mechanisms for appeal are effective and judicial decisions can set a precedent that modify access to information. In particular, courts have occasionally forced authorities or government-related institutions to share internal documentation with the public. At the other extreme, Belgium often has a narrow interpretation of the individual right to data protection, which occasionally hinders research. During much of the COVID-19 crisis, for instance, even academic virologists could not even access the city-level information they needed to forecast the spread of the virus, out of anonymity concerns. More broadly, such a narrow interpretation often makes it difficult to implement evidence-based policies.
The right of access to information is solidly assured since it was strengthened in 1978 through the establishment of an independent agency, CADA (Commission d’Accès aux Documents Administratifs). This body guarantees that any private or public entity is entitled to be given any document requested from a public administration or service, regardless of the legal status of the organization (private or public) if the institution operates a public service. However, some restrictions have been established, mainly in relation with issues regarding the private sphere or the protection of intellectual property or business information in order to safeguard competition between companies. The main and more controversial issue is the refusal to issue documents by citing security or defense concerns, a concept which can be applied broadly and with a limited capacity for challenging in court. The administration in question must deliver the requested document within a month. After that deadline, inaction is considered to be a rejection that can be challenged in court and/or by submitting a request to the Défenseur des Droits (Defender of Civic Rights; Ombudsman). In some cases, the adopted solutions reflect the inability of the political elites to adopt clear-cut policies: for instance, it is possible to check the declaration of revenues and property of members of parliament but divulging the information is considered a criminal offense. This is a telling illustration of the reluctance to set up a full transparency policy. In general, a large range of governmental (or public bodies’) information, including official drafts, reports and audits, are freely accessible via the internet. Beyond the legal rules, two media outlets in particular (Canard enchaîné and Mediapart) have specialized in leaking information that public authorities would prefer to keep secret. This has become an important part of the transparency process, but has had the disadvantage of creating an atmosphere of permanent scandal, with petty or quasi-ridiculous issues sometimes becoming the main concern of social networks or tabloids.
The Freedom of Information Act took effect in 2006. The act defines what government information is publicly available. Citizens are increasingly making use of their rights, and federal authorities no longer regard a citizen’s right to information as a nuisance, but rather as essential to a healthy civil society. The federal commissioner for data protection and freedom of information painted a positive picture in his most recent report, expressing satisfaction with the staffing increase that enabled his agency to intensify its information and consultancy activities. From its on-site audits in 2020 of the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung) and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (Technisches Hilfswerk), the commissioner’s agency certified a swift and appropriate handling of information requests. The pandemic has led to a strong increase of requests for information that are addressed to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Federal Ministry of Health. From the commissioner’s perspective, the RKI’s exceptional workload constitutes a legitimate explanation for why the RKI could not always meet the 30-day deadline for responding to inquiries.

As familiarity with the Information Act has improved significantly, and its enforcement is effective, the commissioner recommends transforming the Information Act into a “Transparency Act” that would involve strengthening requirements for government institutions that would involve comprehensive and proactive disclosure policies. The new coalition has taken up this recommendation and announced a Federal Transparency Act for the new legislative period (Koalitionsvertrag 2021, p. 9).
BfDI (2021): Der Bundesbeauftragte für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit, 29. Tätigkeitsbericht für den Datenschutz und die Informationsfreiheit.
Citizens’ free and easy access to official information has been regulated since 1986. Several laws passed since then were codified in 2015 and streamlined along the European Union’s regulation GPDR of 2016, while new national legislation passed in 2019 was also adapted to the GPDR. Overall, government information is accessible, without violating sensitive personal data. However, new legislation passed in August 2019 (Law 4624/2019) expanded the range of restrictions to access official information beyond the restrictions already provided by the GDPR. In case of conflict between the principles of access to government information and personal data protection, an independent authority, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (the APDPX), intervenes.

Owing to a law passed in 2010 (the “Clarity” law), all public documents are uploaded on a designated official platform. This requirement pertains to all administrative acts, laws, decrees, ministerial decisions and circulars. Otherwise, they are legally not valid. Public officials are required to make declarations of their assets and income public. There are a few reasonable access restrictions pertaining to matters of national security and defense.

There are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information, in addition to the aforementioned independent authority. First, there are administrative courts, including the Supreme Administrative Court (StE, Symvoulio tis Epikrateias). Second, there is the ombuds office, established in 1997. Unfortunately, owing to work overload, administrative courts can take a long time to decide on a case, but the ombuds office represents a well-managed mechanism of appeal and oversight. The ombuds office can demand that any public service responds to a citizen’s right to information, even though ministries themselves tend to be quite unresponsive to citizen requests.
On the Data Protection Authority, see

The “Clarity” law is Law 3861/2010, passed in 2010. Presidential Decree 28/2015 issued in 2015, codified all previous legislation on access to information.

Today, access to information is regulated by European Union’s regulation GPDR, as complemented by Greece’s Law 4624/2019. Articles 33, 34 and 35 of the law go beyond GDPR provisions and expand restrictions to the citizens’ right of access to information. See L. Mitrou (2020), Greece: The New Data Protection Framework,” European Data Protection Law Review, 1/2020, pp. 107-113.
On the Data Protection Authority, see
Irish Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, initially enacted in 1997, was amended in 2003 to restrict access to data and information about decision-making in the public administration in several key areas, including defense, government meetings and areas of commercial sensitivity. The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act passed in 2013 removed the substantive restrictions introduced in 2003, and extended FOI to all public bodies, including the National Treasury Management Agency, the National Asset Management Agency, An Garda Síochána and the Central Bank of Ireland. Moreover, it reduced the cost of internal review from €75 to €30 and appeal fees from €150 to €50.

The existing FOI legislation has been used effectively by individuals and the press to gain access to information regarding matters such as the manner in which ministries reach decisions, public procurement expenses, and instances of the waste of public funds. In 2018, over 37,000 FOI requests were made to public bodies, up from 28,000 in 2015 (Burns, 2019).

Government departments, ministries and agencies now have information officers to channel information to the public. In some cases, these officers act as purveyors of objective information; others act as spin doctors, putting biased interpretations on events to suit politicians.

The Central Statistics Office of Ireland (CSO) is responsible for the collection and dissemination of official statistics. An independent national statistics board oversees its performance. This office is located in the Department of the Taoiseach (the Prime Minister’s Office) and is not answerable to the ministers responsible for areas covered by the statistics. Sensitive data (e.g., figures on inflation and unemployment) are made available to ministries shortly before their publication, but they have no right to alter these data or to influence how they are presented. The CSO enjoys a good reputation internationally in both its independence from political interference and the technical competence of its staff.

A major problem has arisen with respect to the compilation of national income statistics by the CSO. Following changes to the European System of Accounts in 2010 as well as other statistical reporting procedures, the CSO’s statistics for GDP, exports and investment have been artificially inflated. This is due to multinational corporations transferring intellectual property rights to Ireland and then through a process of onshoring in which the profits of their affiliates abroad are attributed to their Irish operations. Such has been the pace of these activities that official statistics are often vastly exaggerated, and need to be severely adjusted to determine the real value added by multinational corporations and aircraft leasing companies in Ireland (Ihle, 2021). Both the central bank of Ireland, and the Economic and Social Research Institute have published revised statistics using a value-added approach to determine the real rate of growth of the Irish economy.

In May 2013, Ireland submitted a letter of intent to join the Open Government Partnership. Full membership was achieved early in 2014 with the submission of Ireland’s National Action Plan.

In 2015, there was controversy surrounding the right of journalists to report allegations made in the Dáil (parliament) in relation to commercial transactions between the National Asset Management Agency and a prominent businessman. The courts ruled that the allegations, made under parliamentary privilege, could not be reported in the press. In reality, they became public almost immediately.
Burns, S. (2019) Up to 37,000 freedom of information requests made in 2018, The Irish Times, 10 July, available at:

DOF (2021) Ireland joins OECD International Tax agreement, Department of Finance, 07 October, available at:

European System of Accounts 2010 and other Statistical Regulations (2014) Office of the Information Commissioner, 2016. Annual Report 2015. Dublin: Stationary Office.

Ihle, J. (2021) Irish prosperity overstated by EU rankings, says former Central Bank governor Honohan, The Irish Independent, 04 February, available at:
Israel adopted the Freedom of Information Law in 1998, allowing each citizen or resident to apply for information regarding a government authority’s activity, whether written, filmed, recorded or digitized. This legal standing has been the basis of considerable activity by NGOs and private individuals. Naturally, the right to freedom of information is not absolute, with reasonable restrictions on the basis of national security or privacy issues.

The right to privacy law (1998) grants individuals the right to access their personal information held in government or private-entity databases.

In 2011, government decision No. 2950 established a designated unit for freedom of information in the Ministry of Justice. The unit is also in charged with implementing OECD guidelines for managing and sharing information.

In 2018, the Freedom of Information Unit under the Ministry of Justice launched a digital system for managing freedom of information requests in government ministries. The unit introduced a new procedure to increase the transparency of public committees and launched a new campaign to increase public awareness of “Kol Zchut,” a comprehensive database that provides information on the rights of Israeli residents and how to exercise these rights.
“About the unit for freedom of information,” The Ministry of Justice website: (Hebrew)

“Annual Report of the unit for freedom of information: 2018,” The Ministry of Justice website:

“Freedom of Information Law,” 1998:–FOIL1998.pdf

“Protection of privacy law,” 1981:

“The Government approved today the publication of all governmental databases” (Hebrew)

“The movement for freedom of information”:

Government ICT Authority: Open Government Action Plan for 2018-2019,

Albin, Einat, Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov, Aeyal Gross & Tamar Hostovsky-Brandes. (2021). Israel Report, LAC19 Compendium, Lex-Atlas: Covid-19. Retrieved from:

Persico, Oren. 2020. “The pressure worked.” The Seventh Eye. Retrieved from:

Tausig, Shuki. 2020. “Withholding information, blunt discrimination between reporters and delivering partial information.” The Seventh Eye. Retrieved from:
New Zealand
Access to government information is regulated by the Official Information Act (OIA) from 1982, which has been reviewed several times. There are restrictions with regard to the protection of the public interest (for example, national security or international relations) and the preservation of personal privacy. There are clear procedures for how queries are handled by public bodies, including a timeframe of 20 working days to respond. The Office of the Ombudsman reviews denials of access upon request. Following a number of precedent-setting decisions by the office in recent years, access to official information is now far-reaching, including access to politically sensitive communications between political advisers and ministers as soon as these communications are made.

New Zealand’s OIA scores 94 points out of 150 according to the 2020 Global Right to Information (RTI) rating, which puts it ahead of many other OECD countries, including Australia (84) and the United States (83). The RTI concludes that New Zealand’s access-to-information regime “functions better in practice than its legal framework would suggest. The law’s major problems include its limited scope (it does not apply to the legislature, the courts, or some bodies within the executive) and the fact that it allows information to be classified by other laws” (Global Right to Information 2020).

The media continue to demand changes to the OIA. In particular, government agencies have been criticized for taking longer periods of time to respond to information requests than are allowed for by the OIA. The Labour government announced that it was committed to rewriting the OIA; however, a promised review has been repeatedly delayed (Macdonald 2021).
Global Right to Information (2020) RTI rating.

Macdonald (2021) “Official Information Act review kicked down the road.” Stuff.
Free and readily available access to official information is guaranteed by Article 48, subsection 2 of the 1976 constitution, and mechanisms exist to ensure that this does in fact happen. There are extensive legal provisions providing guarantees for access to official information. Additional support is supplied by the Aarhus Convention of the European Union, which was signed on 25 July 1998 and ratified by Portugal on 7 September 2003. The government has recently put virtually all official information and requirements such as permits and licenses online. This information can be readily accessed through home computers and without cost in a wide variety of public places such as municipal libraries. The Commission on Access to Administrative Documents (Comissão de Acesso aos Documentos Administrativos, CADA), established in 1995, deals with complaints regarding public access to information.

The access to government documents is guaranteed in Law 26/2016. At the local level, the population generally has access to government information, documents and more through freely available computers at the local library or at government offices.

However, it should also be noted that, while information is available, it is often not well organized. Moreover, it is often not clear even to educated citizens, let alone to citizens with lower educational attainments. This renders citizens’ de facto ability to obtain information less effective than their de jure ability.

The Portuguese government has expanded and improved its Simplex system, giving people access to more information, including much that concerns the government, than was previously available.
Lei n.º 26/2016 – Diário da República n. º 160/2016, Série I de 2016
The first specific law enabling free and easy access to government information in Spain was approved in 2013, this legislation establishes some limits to the freedom of information, and Spain still scores comparatively low for three reasons: 1) some institutions (including the royalty) are not rendered completely transparent by the law, and 2) access to information is not recognized as a fundamental right.

During the first nationwide state of alarm and after the suspension of all administrative deadlines, more than 30 Spanish civil society organizations called on the Spanish government to guarantee the right of access to information. In fact, during the state of alarm, the central government’s Transparency Portal website was not updated. Moreover, for several months, the government refused to provide the names and professional profiles of the members of the expert teams that were advising the government’s coronavirus strategy – these names were finally published at the end of 2020 – nor did it provide the minutes of meetings and reports from the Scientific Committee, which began advising the government on managing the pandemic in March 2020.

During 2020, the Council for Transparency and Good Governance – an independent body – urged the Spanish government on several occasions to deliver information relating to the purchase of medical equipment, as had been requested.

After initially experiencing difficulties collecting data in a timely and orderly fashion, the government and the autonomous communities have on a daily basis published data on infection rates and their development over time, as well as on the local distribution of infections.

In October 2020, after an open process of public consultation, the Spanish government presented an Open Government Action Plan 2020 – 2024, which includes a reform of the 2013 Transparency Law, the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, new laws on lobby regulations and whistleblower protections, and the opening of key data. At the regional level, several lobby regulations and whistleblower protections have already been adopted.

There are several appeal and oversight mechanisms by which citizens’ right to access information can be enforced (e.g., the Spanish and regional ombudsmen, or the transparency councils).
Open Government Partnership (2021), Spain Action Plan Review 2020-2024

Moretón Toquero, M.A. (2020), Libertad de información y transparencia pública bajo el estado de alarma decretado para afrontar la pandemia por Covid19. Biglino Campos, P.; Durán Alba, F., Los Efectos Horizontales de la COVID sobre el sistema constitucional, Colección Obras Colectivas, Fundación Manuel Giménez Abad, Zaragoza. DOI:
The United Kingdom has had a long tradition of official secrecy, but in recent years successive governments have very actively tried to capitalize on the transparency and cost-saving potential of making government information available online. Together with the Freedom of Information Act 2005, this has contributed to easier access for citizens and, often in a very high-profile way, the media. The restrictions on what information can be provided under the Freedom of Information Act (cost limits; national security restrictions; state financial interests) are largely in line with the respective regulations in other countries. More recently there has been a debate about restricting the right to freedom of information. However, the former head of the civil service and the cabinet office minister responsible for the civil service have both opposed any restrictions on access, although former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government introduced the Freedom of Information Act, has said that he regrets doing so.

The United Kingdom has also been at the forefront of making government data available for commercial use and citizen inspection (“open data”). Recent efforts to simplify and render government information more accessible have seen the replacement of a profusion of websites with a single government portal ( and it is clear that the government now regards the provision of information as a high priority. It is noteworthy that the United Kingdom is now mentioned internationally as a leader in open government and access to data. In the World Justice Project’s 2015 Open Government Index, the United Kingdom ranked eighth out of 102 countries, behind the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Canada.

At times, in the fraught period of the Brexit negotiations, however, the government sometimes sought to withhold or delay publication of strategic documents to avoid undermining of the UK negotiating position vis-a-vis the EU27. For the most part, Parliament was able to insist on publication.

During the pandemic, public information was generally published in a timely manner, including detailed data on infections and vaccine rollout, although there were some criticisms about the transparency of data underlying ministerial statements. An easily accessible website was published as part of the comprehensive website to host comprehensive information about the COVID-19 pandemic. The website presents information on guidance and support, government announcements, and statistical data on the pandemic, as well as links to legislation and press conference statements.
Since 1982, access to government information has been largely regulated by the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act). Under this act, applications for information from the government must be made in writing and agencies must respond within 30 days.

The original FOI Act granted ministries considerable discretion and defined a number of exemptions, including for cabinet documents; internal working documents; documents affecting national security, international relations or relations with states; documents affecting enforcement of law and protection of public safety; documents affecting federal financial or property interests; documents relating to business affairs or research; and documents affecting the national economy.

Compliance with the FOI Act was heavily and widely criticized in the past, and the Labor government elected in 2007 passed several pieces of legislation and new regulations that sought to improve community access to government information. This included: the Freedom of Information (Removal of Conclusive Certificates and Other Measures) Act 2009; the Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Amendment Regulations 2010; the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010; and the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010, under which requirements to publish information were increased as of 1 May 2011.
Attorney General’s Department web site describing the 2009 and 2010 Freedom of Information reforms: onreforms.aspx lying-the-foi-act/foi-guidelines/pa rt2_Scope_application_FOI_Act_v1.3.pdf

Statement by the Australian Information Commissioner, Freedom of Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner on the government’s decision to abolish the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner:
Citizens can access government information, but major restrictions apply (see below). The principle of privacy protection is sometimes used as a justification – at times, only a pretext – to prevent academic research and other inquiries. The Austrian bureaucracy still appears tempted to consider access to information a privilege rather than a right.

The overall trend is favorable, with access to information becoming progressively more liberal. For example, more recently, the police and courts established structures (offices and officers in charge) that are responsible for information. However, Austria has still not yet adopted an encompassing freedom of information act of which all citizens are informed and able to use. There are too many legal caveats (defined as state-relevant “secrets,” Amtsgeheimnisse) that restrict public access to government information.

In light of international expert assessments, Austria has long had one of the weakest right to information laws in the world and consistently ranks at the bottom of the Global Right to Information Rating – the leading global tool for assessing the strength of national legal frameworks for accessing information held by public authorities – with a score of 33 out of 150.

According to a detailed assessment by Access Info (, the draft freedom of information law, which was published by the Austrian government in early 2021, “brings with it some positive changes to the previous access to information regime in Austria: the right to information has now been elevated to a constitutional right, there are no longer charges to submit access to information requests, and the right now applies to all governmental agencies, including state-affiliated companies, not just administrative authorities.”

However, the same organization carried out a right to information rating analysis of the recently presented draft law, comparing it against accepted international standards, and found that, “while there are improvements from the previous law, this draft law only scored 57 points out of 150. The main areas of concern with this draft law are: limiting definition of information; weak proactive publication obligations; weak harm and public interest test applicable to exceptions; no independent oversight body; lack of sanctions regime for non-compliance; only judicial appeal against refusals.”
Access to government information for citizens is guaranteed by the Bulgarian constitution and regulated by the Access to Public Information Act originally adopted in 2000. It ensures a high level of access for citizens to government information, and refusals to provide information can be appealed in court. Civil society actors and organizations have exercised their right to court appeals, which has fostered robust court activity. In recent years, the amount of government information made freely and promptly available on the internet has increased markedly, so that the need for formal requests for information has declined. The most common excuse for refusing to release information is that interests of third parties may be affected, while confidentiality and classified information considerations come a distant second. This is the conclusion one can derive from the Access to Information Program annual reports

Third-party interests has been the most-cited reason given for not releasing information on the part of the National Electric Company and the state-owned natural gas monopoly, Bulgargas.

Access to public information is typically weak in the area of public procurement. Public procurement regulations were amended over a five-year period (2015-2020) to allow for “in-house,” non-competitive and non-public decisions to be made by the procuring government agency. This practice has been abandoned by the 2021 governments.
Access to Information Programme Foundation (2019): Access to information in Bulgaria in 2018. Sofia (

Global right to information rating:
Access to official information in Canada has been regulated by the 35-year-old Access to Information Act, which was generally regarded as antiquated. In response, the Trudeau government passed Bill C-59 in June 2019, a measure intended to reform the law and bring it into the 21st century. The new legislation has widely been seen as an improvement. Importantly, it expands the power of the Information Commissioner, giving this entity the authority to order institutions to release records at the end of an investigation when a complaint is deemed to be “well-founded.” When appropriate, the Information Commissioner will also be able to issue publication orders for new complaints that cannot be satisfactorily resolved through informal resolution mechanisms, as well as publish the results of investigations. Furthermore, institutions may now ask the Information Commissioner for approval to decline access requests that are vexatious, made in bad faith or otherwise represent an abuse of the right of access.

The Commissioner had previously expressed a number of concerns about the bill, which were subsequently resolved in committee before the measure was passed into law. One caveat is that the right to information does not apply to the Prime Minister’s Office or other ministerial offices. Government institutions can also decline a request if it concerns a large number of records, is deemed to be made in “bad faith” or would interfere with government operations.

As is the case elsewhere, access to information in Canada is often impeded by bureaucratic procedures and delays. The 2017 Freedom of Information Audit by News Media Canada awarded the system a grade of F for the disclosure of information, stating that the process for requesting and accessing government documents is slow and inefficient, and that very few requests are granted in a timely manner. It remains to be seen whether these realities will change under the new act.
News Media Canada (2017) 2017 Freedom of Information Audit, posted at

Office of the Information Commissioner, Annual Report, 2018-2019, posted at
The statute on access to public information (Ley No. 20,285 sobre Transparencia de la Función Pública y Acceso a la Información de los Órganos de la Administración del Estado) was approved by Congress in August 2008 and implemented in 2009. It mandates two dimensions of transparency. The first dimension relates to “passive transparency,” and obliges all public institutions and authorities of the government to respond to any request for information constituted as public information within a 20-day period (with extensions of up to ten more days possible). The second dimension deals with “active transparency,” and requires governmental ministries and agencies to publish broad information on various topics on their websites. The statute also creates the Transparency Council (Consejo para la Transparencia), an independent agency responsible for monitoring transparency, regulating transparency practices and compelling public services to provide information should they refuse to do so. The Transparency Council’s board of directors is nominated by the executive and approved by the Senate. Information classified as a state secret is exempted from these transparency stipulations. This remains an important clause, as there are about 200 Chilean laws that are officially still classified as secret. These laws derive in some cases from the beginning of the 20th century, and in others from the military regime. Most are actually common knowledge but remain formally treated as secret.

The Sebastián Piñera government presented a draft law (Ley de Transparencia 2.0) that would expand the rules of the Transparency Law as it relates to some active transparency obligations, specifically to nonprofit legal entities that receive transfers of public funds and companies that hold concessions to provide public services. The bill was approved by the Senate in April 2021. Although the Transparency Law (Ley de Transparencia) leaves very little room for administrative interpretation, there have been cases of negligence regarding access to and publication of relevant information, especially at the municipal level.
Law No 20,285 – About access to public information:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional, BCN):, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Chilean Transparency Council,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On Secret Laws:
Consejo Transparencia,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On the Transparency Law 2.0:
Consejo Transparencia,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Transparency International (Chile Transparente),, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

El Mostrador, “Fiscalización del CPLT evidenció que sólo una de cada cuatro asociaciones entrega información requerida vía Ley de Transparencia”, 30 August 2021,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
The Right of Access to Information Act has been in place since 2003 and the legislative framework is relatively well established, thanks in particular to later amendments to the act. In October 2013, a long-standing demand by NGOs was met and Anamarija Musa, a public administration scholar, was appointed by parliament as the first commissioner for the right of access to information. Thanks to her efforts, access to information has significantly improved. More than 80% of the 5,900 distinct public authorities now submit the required regular reports on the enforcement of the act and about 85% have an information officer in charge of handling information requests. Transparency is lower at the local and regional level and in the case of public companies. While most of the requests are – fully or partially – met, violations are rarely penalized. Commissioner Musa and others have criticized the fact that court procedures have been cumbersome, and courts have rarely passed verdicts against public authorities. The Ombudsman for Human Rights has complained several times about having been denied information about police treatment of migrants. In 2018, the Croatian parliament elected Zoran Pičuljan as the new information commissioner. He has sought to retain the fundamental achievements in the right of access to information gained during Musa’s tenure.
The Czech constitution and the 1999 Law on Free Access to Information, substantially amended in 2006, provide for extensive access to government information. Public bodies have gradually learned what can and cannot be kept secret. Most ministries and larger public bodies now include a special section with the information provided upon request. The Babiš government has increased the visibility of the eKLEP (Electronic Library of Legislative Process). eKLEP allows the public to follow legal proposals from the point of creation to approval or rejection. All draft legislative documents are available and regularly updated. While central-government bodies are rather transparent, there are still difficulties in accessing government information within many municipalities. However, these bodies too can be taken to court if officials refuse to respond to requests for information. Some smaller municipalities have faced stiff financial penalties following failures to disclose information as requested. As a result, the actions of municipalities are becoming more transparent; for instance, municipal board meetings are being streamed online, and citizens are being allowed to participate in municipal activities in other interactive ways. Larger municipalities tend to be more open than their smaller counterparts.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, conflicts over access to government information gained importance. At the beginning of the pandemic, the government refrained from publishing major pandemic-related information. Media and NGOs had to invoke the freedom of information law to access controversial information on the availability of hospital beds and frontline personnel, and the acquisition of personal protective equipment by the government. In spring 2020, the government considered the idea of amending the law on access to information in order to restrict the provision of information during states of emergency. When the media found out, however, the opposition pushed back and the government left the law unchanged.
The first freedom of information act was introduced by Law No. 241 in 1990. Its provisions were amended and made less restrictive by Law No. 15 of 2005; further corrections were added in 2013. Disclosure can be denied only under specific circumstances (such as national security, protection of privacy), which must be explicitly identified by administrative offices. Special offices (Uffici Relazioni con il Pubblico, URP) dealing with requests for access to information have been established in all administrative offices, both national and local. Access has been made easier and more effective by the Decreto Legislativo 25 maggio 2016, n. 97, which significantly extends the range of publicly accessible documents, the so-called FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).

Both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms of appeal exist, and are increasingly used. Among these is the Commission for Access to Public Documents (Commissione per l’Accesso ai Documenti Amministrativi) of the presidency of the Council of Ministers, which hears appeals when requests for information disclosure have been denied, and can ask public administrative bodies to reconsider their decisions. However, the commission, which comprises both parliamentarians and technical officers, has limited coercive powers; its impact is mainly through moral suasion. The commission makes an annual report to parliament. The most recent report as of the time of writing, covering 2019, identified a continuing increase in the number of citizens’ appeals and documented the body’s responses. Regional administrative tribunals can judicially enforce the disclosure of documents. In spite of this regulatory and organizational progress, the propensity of public administration to provide the answers in due time is still far from being fully satisfactory either because of bureaucratic inefficiency or because of a reluctance to disclose internal matters. A recent report by an Italian NGO found that only 35% of information requests received a response within 60 days.
Citations: (accessed 390 December 2021)
Access to government information is guaranteed by the constitution and the Act on Free Access to Information (Infolaw), which was originally approved in 2000 and has been amended several times since. After the 2016 elections, Lucia Žitňanská, the Justice Minister in the third Fico government who resigned after the murder of Ján Kuciak, prepared a draft amendment that incorporated recommendations proposed by three prominent watchdog organizations (Transparency International Slovensko-TIS, Fair-Play Alliance, INEKO) including subjecting companies that are fully owned by the state or municipalities to the Infolaw and making public the salaries and CVs of state nominees. However, the Pellegrini government did not pursue the issue. After the 2020 elections, the new Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (SaS) announced plans to eventually amend the Infolaw. However, the amendment has been criticized by NGOs as too modest and has been approved by parliament only in February 2022.
The Government Information (Public Access) Act (WOB) 1991 governs both active and passive public access to information. Under the WOB, any person can demand information related to “administrative matters” if it is contained in “documents” held by public authorities or companies carrying out work for a public authority. Information must be withheld, however, if it would endanger the unity of the Crown, damage the security of the state, or particularly if it relates to information on companies and manufacturing processes that were provided in confidence. Information can also be withheld “if its importance does not outweigh” the imperatives of international relations and the economic or financial interest of the state.

Between 2010 and 2012, access to government information became a politically contested issue. In practice, the law was used more and more to justify withholding of information to citizens and journalists in the name of “state interest,” which usually referred to the desire to retain the confidentiality of intra-government consultation. In December 2020, the issue politically exploded when the Commission Van Dam, a parliamentary investigation commission on the childcare premium scandal, explicitly accused government of withholding information for many years. Focusing on Minister-resident Rutte as the main culprit, the government (non)information strategy was subsequently called the Rutte doctrine. Under this strategy, the information shared with parliament (and the media) was restricted to that relating to post-factum responsibility and accountability for policy decisions. Far less or no information was shared about the process of decision-making, about how decisions were reached or about how judgments were made by whom, on which scenarios and following what lobbying efforts. After the government collectively stepped down on 15 January 2021, the so-called Rutte doctrine became a major topic of discussion in a public and political debate over a new administrative culture, in which government promised to be much more proactive and transparent in sharing information with parliament and the media.

Meanwhile, this new information regime acquired a legal basis in a new Law on Open Government (Wet open overheid, Woo) to be effective in 2022. All administrative bodies are obliged to proactively publish certain categories of information on a national Platform for Open Government Information. As under the older law, every citizen (but in practice generally journalists) may request specified items of information. Every administrative body will have a contact person tasked with helping citizens look for the information they demand. In addition, there will be a special advisory body on publicity and information to help government apply the new law and mediate in conflicts between government and the media.
Your citations
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Stibbe, 27 March 2019. Ook WhatsApp – en SMS-berichten op privé telefoons vallen onder de Wet openbaar bestuur (Stibbe B.V., accessed 4 November 2019)

Verslag – Parlementaire ondervragingscommissie Kinderopvangtoeslag Ongekend onrecht
35 510 Parlementaire ondervraging Kinderopvangtoeslag
17 december 2020

G. Entoven, 2011. Hoe vertellen we het de Kamer? Een empirisch onderzoek naar de informatierelatie tussen regering en parlement, dissertatie Universiteit van Tiburg. Delft: Eburon

W. Voermans, 2021. Het land moet bestuurd worden. Macchiavelli in de polder, Amsterdam: Prometheus, Rutten, 21 January 2021. De Rutte-doctrine: catchphrase die de ergernis van de Kamer verwoordt

Rijksoverheid, 5 October 2021. Eerste Kamer stemt in met Wet open overheid (Woo)
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows citizens a high degree of access to documents and files held by federal agencies. Various categories of information are exempt from public access, such as information related to national defense, personnel rules and practices, and ongoing criminal investigations. Administrators have considerable discretion in permitting access, as citizens and researchers have difficulty knowing when relevant information has been withheld.

In 2019, a larger issue of access to information arose in that the White House declared, in the context of the House’s various investigations into presidential misconduct, that the administration would not cooperate with the House inquiry and thus would neither provide any requested documents nor permit executive branch witnesses to testify. The unprecedented blanket defiance of legitimate congressional demands for information and testimony also deprived the media and the public of the access it would have had to most of that information. In December 2019, the House of Representatives, on a party-line vote, impeached president Trump, in part for his “obstruction of Congress.” Despite this, key congressional demands for information remained a contentious issue until the very end of the Trump presidency and even beyond, especially in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which led to the second impeachment of Donald Trump by the House later that month. And this continues to date (of this writing) with the House’s investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Mexico’s freedom of information act became law in 2002. The law was the first in Latin America to impose obligations on the state to publicly share information and increase the level of political transparency. INAI (Instituto Nacional de Transparencia, Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos Personales) is an autonomous body, which aims to promote government transparency, monitor developments in open government and access to information, and settle disputes between citizens and government bodies over freedom of information requests. Mexico’s freedom of information act has proved to be a considerable success in increasing publicly available information. Scholars, journalists and bureaucrats have all made use of its provisions and a lot of new information has come to light.

Despite the progressive spirit of the law, however, the extent to which it is obeyed and enforced varies considerably. Powerful public and private actors can delay and obscure access to information, despite formal transparency laws. As is often the case in Mexico, there is a gap between theory and practice. In general, the situation did not change substantially during the observation period in 2020 and 2021.
AMLO creates super-commission to investigate missing 43 of Ayotzinapa, December 4, 2018,
South Korea
The Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies regulates access to government information. It makes available all documents described by the act. Information can also be accessed online at the Online Data Release System. If an individual requests the disclosure of information, the agency in possession of that information must make a decision on the petition within 15 days. While this is a reasonable level of exception in theory, “national security” is often interpreted very broadly. Decisions by as public institution to not disclose information can be challenged by administrative appeal (to an administrative appeals commission comprised of administrative agencies which supervise the public institution in question) and/or via administrative litigation (administrative court).

A recent reform of the Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies that took effect in December 2020 expanded the scope of information disclosure to include quasi-governmental institutions, local public corporations and regional corporations. Moreover, it strengthened the status of the relevant investigation bodies (the Ministry of the Interior and Safety and the Information Disclosure Committee that was established under the prime minister).

In the 2017 Open Data Barometer’s implementation section, Korea obtained 90 out of 100 points for having a detailed government budget, but only five points with regard to publishing detailed data on government spending. It received 50 points in the legislative category. The National Assembly has proved reluctant to disclose information about its spending, a fact that has triggered considerable public criticism. Moreover the 2018 Global Right to Information Index gives Korea an average rating, citing constraints on access to government information including the existence of other acts that exempt information from disclosure, vague procedural safeguards and limited public interest overrides.
Article 19. Country Report: The Right to Information in South Korea. January 21, 2016.
Open Data Barometer, World Wide Web Foundation. Global Rankings 2017.
Open Data Barometer, World Wide Web Foundation. Country Detail: Korea.
“Global Right to Information Rating – South Korea.” Accessed January 18, 2022.
공공기관의 정보공개에 관한 법률 (Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies), 법률 제17690호, 2020. 12. 22, Accessed 29 January 2022,
Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
The 1997 Information Act (Upplýsingalög), revised in 2012, aims to guarantee the right of access to official information. Memoranda, working documents, and materials related to the Council of the State (Ríkisráð), cabinet, and ministerial meetings were originally exempted. In 2011, a revision to the Act on the Government of Iceland (Lög um Stjórnarráð Íslands) mandated that the agenda of cabinet meetings be presented to the media and published on the government’s website after each meeting.

Sensitive financial and personal information, as laid out in the Act on Processing and Protection of Personal Data (No. 77/2000), is not accessible unless permission is obtained from the person involved. Access to restricted information is available once the measures associated with the information are complete, after a period of 30 years for general information or 80 years for personal information (as per the National Archives Act, No. 66/1985). Information regarding the security or defense of the state, or international commercial activities, is also exempted from the act. Decisions denying access to information can be appealed to the Information Committee, whose members are appointed by the prime minister. No other government or judicial body can overrule the decisions of the committee (úrskurðarnefnd um upplýsingamál) tasked with enforcing the information act.

Despite these provisions, public access to information can be restricted. For example, the central bank refused a parliamentary committee’s request to see a transcript or hear an audio recording of a fateful telephone conversation between the prime minister and the central bank governor shortly before the 2008 economic collapse.

The government remains quite secretive about potentially compromising information. For example, an official report on Icelanders whose names appear in the Panama Papers was ready well before the October 2016 parliamentary election but was not disclosed to the public until after the election in which all three ministers whose names appeared in the Panama Papers were re-elected to their seats in parliament. There have been several other recent scandals involving information withheld from the public. One such led to the collapse of the government in 2017. Another example is that of the opposition member of parliament who, for the last two years, has tried in vain to obtain an answer from the government to the question of who bought a large number of apartments from which the House Financing Fund had evicted the former owners between 2009 and 2019.

During 2018, an opposition member of parliament from the Pirate Party managed to compel the parliament to disclose information regarding parliament’s reimbursement of members of parliament’s expense claims (e.g., travel costs). Parliament’s failure to ratify the constitution bill, approved in a 2012 national referendum, should be viewed in light of the bill’s provisions on transparency, freedom of information and protections for whistleblowers, reforms that many politicians continue to resist.

The government routinely offers petty excuses, sometimes involving national security, in its attempts to keep inconvenient truths from the public and avoid embarrassment, but such attempts are sometimes overturned by the information committee.
Information Act (Upplysingalög). Act no. 50/1996.

Act on Processing and Protection of Personal Data. (Lög um persónuvernd og meðferð persónuupplýsinga) Act no. 77/2000.

Act on the Government of Iceland (Lög um Stjórnarráð Íslands) nr. 115 23. september 2011.
Luxembourg has no freedom of information act or any equivalent legal regulation. In a report published in July 2021, the EU expressed concern over the lack of public access to official government documents in Luxembourg and the risk of a “selective” disclosure of information. In April 2021, the Luxembourg Association of Professional Journalists (ALJP) and its 10 partners, including the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), launched the one-year campaign “Access to information now!”, advocating for improved access to information and transparency. ALJP stressed the necessity of amending the press law with an article compelling the authorities to provide information to the media within a specific time-frame.

Such a law has been a long-standing demand of media, journalist associations and many NGOs. It is worth noting that the so-called Circulaire Bettel (in force since 2016) forbids any civil servants from speaking to media. Communication with journalists has to pass exclusively through official designated spokespeople. In a meeting with the Association Luxembourgeoise des Journalistes Professionnels (ALJP) held in September 2021, the spokesperson for Media and Communication Minister Xavier Bettel “re-confirmed an openness to potentially revise the current methods of working in regards of access to information if and where deemed necessary […] together with the Press Council.” However, access to state-held information is not guaranteed, despite repeated requests from the journalists’ union, which opposes the withholding of public information by the authorities on the grounds of protecting personal data.

The above-mentioned EU report noted that Luxembourg’s “framework for the protection of journalists remains robust” and acknowledged the government’s measures in the past year to strengthen the independence of the media regulator, the ALIA (Autorité luxembourgeoise indépendante de l’audiovisuel).

The Information and Press Service (Service Information et Presse, SIP), created in 1944, is the body responsible for circulating communication from the Luxembourg government. It is attached to the Ministry of State, and is under the direct authority of the prime minister. The Department of Media, Connectivity and Digital Policy, which is also part of the Ministry of State of Luxembourg, supports the development of the media landscape and the high level of network connectivity.
The Luxembourg Government. Department of Media, Connectivity and Digital Policy (2022). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Bettel vows to improve press access to information.” Luxembourg Times (21.09.2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

Association luxembourgeoise des journalistes, Accessed 14 January 2022.
Access to public information is guaranteed in Article 61.1 of the Polish constitution, and the Law on Access to Public Information provides for far-reaching access to official information. The law defines public information as information on public matters and covers trade unions and political parties as well as the government. In response to an EU directive, a September 2011 amendment facilitated citizens’ reuse of government information and called on public institutions to provide resources enabling citizens to access information. While the PiS government has left the legal framework more or less untouched, it has been more restrictive than its predecessors in granting public access to information and has sometimes openly misinformed the public. The government attempts to restrict public access to information have been partly offset by the courts, which have typically ruled in favor of citizens or journalists so far.

In 2021, the government launched an attempt to change the legal framework. The new president of the Supreme Court, Małgorzata Manowska, a controversial judge close to PiS, asked the Constitutional Tribunal to declare significant parts of the Law on Access to Public Information as unconstitutional, with a view to constraining access to public information (Article 19 2021). A Constitutional Tribunal hearing on the issue was originally scheduled for December 15, but then postponed.
Article 19 (2021): Poland: Access to public information must not be constrained. November 15, London (
Law 544/2001, known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ensures citizens’ access to public information. Its remit creates obligations for all central and local state institutions, as well as public companies for which the state is the majority shareholder. Along with ministries, central agencies and local governments, public universities, hospitals, and many off-budget central and local public companies have to comply with the terms of law 544. However, actual enforcement differs from the terms of the existing legislation. Authorities often try to withhold information or to restrict access through cumbersome or obstructive administrative mechanisms. Privacy and secrecy considerations, be they real or pretended, often trump the transparency principle.

The COVID-19 pandemic restricted the ability of Romanians to access official information in a timely manner. While citizens have the legal right to obtain public information and can petition government agencies, during the pandemic agencies were not obligated to respect the normal time limit for responding to requests for information. Additionally, pandemic-related information was sometimes withheld by authorities. In March 2020, the Ministry of Internal Affairs ordered local prefects not to publish the number of COVID-19 tests performed or the number of positive results, though this has since been made public again. In September 2020, the Centre for Independent Journalism noted that healthcare staff were often prohibited from discussing the pandemic with media outlets.
Japan’s Act on Access to Information held by Administrative Organs came into effect in 2001, followed in 2002 by the Act on Access to Information held by Independent Administrative Agencies. The 2011 Public Records Act provides the basis for information access in Japan. Japan does well among OECD member states with respect to open-government information policies and practices, according to the OECD’s 2019 OURdata index.

However, there are a number of issues. For example, various exemptions apply with respect to information concerning specific individuals, national security issues and confidential business matters. Claims can be denied, and the head of the agency involved has considerable discretion. Appeals are possible, but only in court, which involves a very burdensome process.

In 2019, it came to light that no records had been kept of the prime minister’s meetings with senior bureaucrats in the year ending that January, despite earlier record-keeping scandals. It also became known that documentation regarding who had been invited to a huge publicly funded cherry-blossom viewing reception had been shredded shortly after opposition members of parliament demanded to see the list of invitees, leading to a major political scandal engulfing the prime minister. It was also revealed that about half of the prefectural governments had deleted campaign bulletins, including pledges, after the last round of local elections.

The controversial 2014 State Secrets Law gives ministries and major agencies the power to designate government information as secret for up to 60 years. There are no independent oversight bodies controlling such designations. Whistleblowing can be punished by up to 10 years in prison, and even trying to obtain secrets can result in jail terms of up to five years. Critics argue that governments may be tempted to misuse this new law. Moreover, the rights and powers of two Diet committees tasked with overseeing the law’s implementation have been criticized as being too weak.
OECD Open, Useful and Re-usable data (OURdata) Index: 2019, OECD 2020,

Ministry excluded panel discussion records from freedom of information request, The Mainichi 21 July 2018,

Eric Johnston, Cherry blossom-viewing party: Breaking down Abe’s latest cronyism scandal, The Japan Times, 27 November 2019,

Hiroyuki Oba et al., No records remain of PM’s meetings with top gov’t officials over 1-yr period, The Mainichi, 15 April 2019,

Shotaro Asano and Shinya Oba, Half of Japan’s prefectural gov’ts delted online campaign pledge info after elections, The Mainichi, 6 June 2019,
The Freedom of Information Act was passed in 2008 and only came into force in September 2012. Since this time journalists have had better access to information from government bodies. However, exemptions compromise the bulk of the legislation. Under Article 5(4), no Maltese citizen is entitled to apply to view documents held by the Electoral Commission, the Employment Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Audit Office, the Security Service, the Ombudsman Office and the broadcasting authority, when the latter is exercising its constitutional function. Under Article 3, only Maltese and EU nationals who have been resident in Malta for a minimum of five years may access information. The prime minister also holds the power to overrule the Information and Data Protection commissioner, despite the latter’s declaration that a request for information should be approved. Moreover, there are a number of laws that still contain secrecy provisions to which the act does not apply. While this may be justified in some cases, it might undermine the essential workings of the act, as it could be in the political interest of the prime minister to suppress the publication of documents, which might embarrass or undermine his administration. The act does not meet the standards of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Access to Official Documents. In the 2021 Media Pluralism Monitor, Malta received a medium-risk score of 61% for the protection of the right to information, up 13 percentage points from the MPM2020. The monitor also stated that “journalists continue to consistently encounter difficulties when requesting government information. These include rejections, unnecessary delays, no reply scenarios, and the application of diversionary tactics.” The data protection commissioner stated that the law needs to be revised, since a number of exceptions found in the law are not subject to the public interest test. The process to revise the law has begun.
Aquilina, K, Information Freedom at Last. Times of Malta, 22/08/12
Freedom of Information Act Comes Fully into Force. The Independent 02/09/12
In spite of fines ministry offers no reply to Times FOI request Times of Malta 9/5/2015
Government says no to most Times of Malta requests for information Times of Malta 11/06/16
Times of Malta 12/08/17 Freedom of information requests tripled in three years
Times of Malta 27/08/16 Has the Freedom of information Act worked?
Times of Malta 30/11/17 Over 400 Freedom of information requests in 3 years
Malta Independent 26/08/19 Freedom of information act: pulling off the cloak of secrecy
Malta Independent 17/10/19 Freedom of information: Transparency needed
The State’s Duty to Inform, Edited by the Parliamentary Ombudsman Malta 2015
Times of Malta 25/05/2021 Malta’s data protection commissioner on three years of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Under the terms of Law 4982, citizens, non-citizens and foreign corporations have the right of access to government information. However, many public records are not included within the scope of the law, as there are exceptions for state secrets, intelligence information, individual privacy and communication privacy. There is no legislation governing state and trade secrets, thus preventing effective use of the access to information provisions. Most public offices have a department that deals with access to information requests. These requests can be made in person or electronically.

Access to information rights and complaint mechanisms are not used effectively. A total of 2,043,467 applications for information based on Law 4982 were submitted to public institutions in 2020. According to official information, 84.3% of requests resulted in the full provision of the requested information, 8.1% resulted in partial information or a negative response, and 7.0% were rejected. Of the rejected applications, 2,628 were taken to court on appeal. A total of 9,170 applications were found to concern state secrets or private issues. The government’s annual report on access to information requests does not include details about the subject of the applications.

The Board of Review for Access to Information, which is attached to the presidency, examines administrative decisions rendered under Law No. 4982 (articles 6 and 17). The board received a total of 1,159 objection applications in 2018. Of the applications, the board rejected 563 because the relevant public institutions had provided a proper response to the applicants. Meanwhile, 40 applications were accepted, 74 were partially accepted and 107 were procedurally accepted.

Additionally, following the abolishment of the Prime Minister’s Office in July 2018, the Prime Minister’s Communication Center (BİMER) was merged with the Presidential Communication Center (CİMER) on 10 July 2018. By 2020, the center had received around 6 million applications.
European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.

Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Başkanlığı, 2020 Yılı Bilgi Edinme Genel Raporu, /2018_yili_degerlendirme_raporu.pdf

Cnntürk. “”CİMER’e 2020 yılında 6 milyona yakın başvuru yapıldı,” January 13, 2021.
In December 2017, the parliament approved a law “to regulate the right of access to information in the public domain.” The law aimed to create a comprehensive framework that would solve problems, fill in gaps and iron out contradictions in existing rules, dispersed in a variety of laws.

After twice suspending the promulgation of the law, this started in December 2020. The law grants the commissioner for information the power to monitor compliance. This role is assigned to the commissioner for data protection. Exceptions regarding access to information relate to courts and other instances, mainly for cases where examination procedures are ongoing.

Ministries and other public bodies have an obligation to publish information to which access is possible under the law and respond to requests for information within specific timeframes. Complaints can be addressed to the commissioner for information.

One year since the promulgation of the law, the only information available is about seminars that were held, and 25 complaints submitted and five decisions (not published).
The Law to regulate access to information in the public domain, L. 184(I)/2017, in Greek,
While existing law provides for far-reaching access to government information, the Orbán governments have made it increasingly difficult for the public and the media to obtain information. There has been a constant fight between the government and the democratic opposition over access to government data and documents, often fought at the courts. NGOs have worked intensively to claim government information through the courts, and independent media organizations have regularly published categorized government information. Especially contested has been information on public procurement.

The restrictions on access to official information have been a major issue during the COVID-19 pandemic (Kovács 2021). Vital data on case numbers by regions and municipalities has not been published by the government in a consistent and reliable manner, and no estimates of the r-value and no data on intensive care have been provided. Meanwhile, coronavirus and medical staff, and health officials have been legally prohibited from providing pandemic-related information. The March 2020 emergency legislation has made it more difficult for journalist and citizens to request public information on the basis of the Hungarian freedom of information act (Zöldi 2020).
Kovács, K. (2021): Hungary and the Pandemic: A Pretext for Expanding Power, in: VerfBlog, March 11 (

Zöldi, B. (2020): COVID-19 pandemic adds to Hungary’s transparency woes, International Press Institute, October 30 (
Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
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