Thursday, July 31, 2008

Freedom of Information Week to be Held in Tbilisi -

Freedom of Information Week to be Held in Tbilisi -

Thursday, July 31, 2008

3:09 PM

[2008-07-30 | 14:39:56]




Freedom of Information Week to be Held in Tbilisi

Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) is to organize a week of Freedom of Information in Tbilisi. A ten-day campaign is to start on August 1.

The Ambassadori hotel will host the presentation of the results of the research on the following topics: how Georgia follows the recommendations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the anticorruption group of states (GREGO);

How the judiciary system has developed in terms of the freedom of information issues;

How easy the access to information is at the state agency and whether it is efficient to restore the violated right though an administrative complaint.

The database of court decisions and administrative complaints’ created by GYLA is planned to be presented.


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Forum Secretariat | Speech by UNDP Pacific Center Manager at FOI workshop

Forum Secretariat | Speech by UNDP Pacific Center Manager at FOI workshop

Thursday, July 31, 2008

3:05 PM

Speech by Garry Wiseman, UNDP Pacific Centre Manager

“FOI Workshop for Pacific Policy-Makers”

Honiara, Solomon Islands – 30 June 2008



Honorable Dr Derek Sikua, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Members of Parliament, government representatives from throughout the Pacific, colleagues from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, officials, distinguished guests and members of the media.


The UNDP Pacific Centre is pleased to be part of this Freedom of Information Workshop for Pacific Policy-Makers, and to support your organisers the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat over the next three days.


The right to information has long been recognised as underpinning all other rights to which the UN is committed – because without information people cannot effectively protect and promote their own rights. Notably, 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights to which all Pacific island countries, as members of the United Nations have committed themselves. We are, therefore, very pleased to support a workshop on right to information – such a fundamental right – in the same year as the anniversary of the Declaration.


I would like to thank the Honourable Prime Minister for his willingness to be with us this morning to open this Workshop. I am aware your Government is committed to improving governance and access to information. In fact I recall reading one of your first major policy addresses, made soon after you became Prime Minister in which you specifically discussed the challenges posed to Solomon Islands, and in which you outlined your commitment to participatory development and good governance. I also understand that in your meeting last Friday on the new Solomon Islands Medium Term Development Strategy you again addressed many of these themes.


We are hopeful that this workshop will provide guidance to Pacific policy-makers, including senior officials from the Solomon Islands, on the value of freedom of information in achieving these very important goals – participatory development and good governance.


I am aware that in the Pacific, freedom of information is often thought about as more of an issue for the media, than for ordinary people. It also seems that there is a strong sense in our region that access to information combined with responsible reporting is a media right. In this regard, I would like to acknowledge the media in the room today and agree that it is essential to effective democracy that the media are able to access solid data and reliable information from governments, so that their stories are fact-based and thorough and impart useful information to the public.


However, it is also important to recognize that access to information does not have to be restricted to the work of the media. The right to information is a tool which can be used by all members of society to empower ordinary members of the community to better participate in their own governance and development. With more information about what governments are doing, what services they provide and what programmes they are implementing, members of the public can engage with the development activities around them at their own pace and in their own way.


I have worked in development a long time, and I have often seen that when we talk about participation, too often participation is promoted on our terms. We have consultations with the public when WE need to, meetings with stakeholders and partners according to OUR schedules. But with freedom of information, people can start asking questions about issues that interest them and that are important to their lives. However, it is also important that the information is available in a form that is understandable and not “public service speak”.


The PFNet service, using simple low-cost technology was set up in Solomon Islands as an initiative to facilitate just this kind of information flow. I read with interest some time back that the Government Communications Unit has started publishing more information on PFNet to keep the public informed about what is being done from the capital. These are the kind of simple initiatives Pacific Island governments and parliaments can look to if they are interested in practically implementing the right to information.


Significantly, by opening up channels of communication between members of the public and governments, we can also rebuild and cement the relationship of trust between governments and the public they are to serve. Often, people don’t understand what is happening around them and in our region; they tend to rely on the coconut wireless to fill the gap where governments are silent. This can often lead to rumour-mongering which can distort the facts and leave people nervous – or worse – angry. Entrenching freedom of information can tackle this problem directly, a benefit of especial significance to many countries in our region.


I would like to note that this Workshop also coincides with the Pacific launch of the UNDP Asia Pacific Human Development Report “Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives. We are very honoured that the Deputy Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Honourable Fred Fono, has agreed to join us this evening and will be launching our Report tonight. Notably, the importance of freedom of information as a mechanism for promoting government transparency and accountability within a framework of promoting participatory development and the realisation of human rights for all is one of the key themes of that Report.


You are all invited to the launch this evening which will also double as our welcome reception for this workshop.


I would like to conclude by reflecting on the fact that the Pacific Plan, the regional document which guides the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s work and the work of development partners like the UNDP, highlights freedom of information as an element which will support the Good Governance Pillar of the Pacific Plan. It is encouraging that Pacific leaders have recognised in such a seminal document, the benefits that freedom of information can bring to the Pacific – some of which I have highlighted already, but many more of which will be discussed over the next three days. We hope that these discussions will make a contribution to achieving the regional and national development goals that Pacific leaders have set for themselves and their people.


Thank you and best wishes for the next three days.


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Pacific nations to study FOI law

Pacific nations to study FOI law

Thursday, July 31, 2008

3:06 PM

    Pacific nations to study FOI law

    Published on Thursday, July 31, 2008


    Natasha Bodden

    FOI Unit’s Policy Analyst

    Natasha Bodden, the Freedom of Information (FOI) Unit’s Policy Analyst, shared the Cayman Islands’ experience with the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation with Pacific nations while on an official visit to the Solomon Islands.

    Ms Bodden was invited to speak at the first-ever FOI Workshop held in the Honaira region, where she told policymakers that it is imperative to localise FOI legislation and encourage public participation.

    “As a small island community, we in the Cayman Islands had felt the need to adjust international legislation to suit our particular circumstances. As such we reviewed existing FOI laws worldwide and created our own, using international best practices adapted to fit our country,” she said.

    Ms Bodden added that there is need for public consultation throughout the development process so that the final legislation and regulations will actually fit community needs.

    Other issues needing attention include the creation of a robust records management system to ensure accurate and timely responses to requests for information, and the development of a culture of openness within the public sector so “governments will acknowledge that the information they hold is owned by the public,” Ms Bodden explained.

    Following her presentation, Cook Islands Ombudsman Janet Maki commented that a study of the Cayman Islands’ experience of implementing FOI legislation has much to offer other countries undertaking the same process.

    “We hope to follow similar practices when implementing our own,” she said.

    Regional Governance Adviser for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Dr Henry Ivarature specifically thanked the Cayman Islands and Ms Bodden for travelling to the Pacific to share FOI implementation experiences.

    The workshop was organised by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme’s Pacific Centre. Other participating countries were the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.


    Inserted from <>

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stuart Skelly: Where to draw the line between the right to privacy and the right to know? - News

Stuart Skelly: Where to draw the line between the right to privacy and the right to know?


FROM the Court of Appeal victory by JK Rowling banning photographs of her walking down a public street with her children, to the US court ruling that requires Google to divulge details of YouTube users, the rights of individual privacy are constantly balanced against the public's right of access to information.

This issue has been thrust further into the spotlight by events in the past fortnight.


A landmark test case came with the ruling of the House of Lords in its first judgment on the freedom of information (FOI) legislation. It is a decision keenly awaited in Scotland and in England that seeks to balance the public's "right to know" under FOI legislation against legitimate privacy expectations of individuals under data protection rules.


The case involved a request to the NHS' Common Services Agency (CSA), for details of incidences of childhood leukaemia in Dumfries and Galloway, broken down by census ward.


The request was refused by the CSA, which argued that this information was exempt under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 on the basis that act prevents disclosure of personal data about third parties.


Full article: <>

New Documents Released in County Commission Sunshine Law Lawsuit (US)

Updated: July 28, 2008 09:42 PM

New Documents Released in County Commission Sunshine Law Lawsuit

By: Mike Shain

JACKSON, Mo. - Words are flying again between two members of the Cape Girardeau County Commission.

Commissioner Jay Purcell has released documents that the presiding commissioner calls confidential.

At issue is County Auditor David Ludwig accused of improper use of his computer to look at pictures of a swim suit clad actress.

At a 2007 meeting of Ludwig and the commission, a meeting, "private and confidential", the auditor signed a statement admitting he could have exposed the county to a sexual harrassment lawsuit.

"At the time I thought it was very questionable so I made copies of it.  Again what they basically did was create a secret file and did it with such an intent to make sure the citizens could never find out what was happening in county government," Purcell said.

Full article <> What would you create with public information? (UK)

Show Us a Better Way

What would you create with public information?

Ever been frustrated that you can't find out something that ought to be easy to find?  Ever been baffled by league tables or 'performance indicators'?  Do you think that better use of public information could improve health, education, justice or society at large? 03_journey_planner_warning_detail_2

The UK Government wants to hear your ideas for new products that could improve the way public information is communicated. The Power of Information Taskforce is running a competition on the Government's behalf, and we have a £20,000 prize fund to develop the best ideas to the next level. You can see the type of thing we are are looking for here

To show they are serious, the Government is making available gigabytes of new or previously invisible public information especially for people to use in this competition.  Rest assured, this competition does not include personal information about people.

We're confident that you'll have more and better ideas than we ever will. You don't have to have any technical knowledge, nor any money, just a good idea, and 5 minutes spare to enter the competition.

Go on, Show Us A Better Way.

High court says Beaver Dam meetings should be public (Wisc)

JS Online: Development groups weigh impact of verdict

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

8:36 AM

Development groups weigh impact of verdict

High court says Beaver Dam meetings should be public


Posted: July 27, 2008

A state Supreme Court ruling that a Beaver Dam economic development group is a quasi-governmental organization and must obey the state’s open meetings and open records laws has been hailed as a victory for open government and criticized as a threat to economic development.

The Beaver Dam Area Development Corp. secretly negotiated for months in 2003 with Wal-Mart to build a $55 million, 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center on about 400 acres north of the city. The group negotiated zoning changes, water service, fire protection and other items, including $6.18 million in incentives.

Those details did not become public until the City Council approved without discussion a 13-page memorandum of understanding with Wal-Mart.

“Very clearly there needs to be a measure of transparency when government funds are being allocated for economic development,” said Jim Paetsch, director of corporate expansion and relocation for The Milwaukee 7, a consortium of private investors and local governments in the Milwaukee metro area.

“If people are in doubt, they should conduct themselves with the maximum degree of openness,” he said. “Doing so will breed trust and support for what they are doing.”


Full Article: <>

Monday, July 28, 2008

[NS] Road to democracy paved with bribery, intimidation, assault

Road to democracy paved with bribery, intimidation, assault

What a difference two-and-a-half centuries make.

Voting in Nova Scotia during that time has gone from the rough-and-tumble world of unsavoury elections to the more civilized scene we've come to know today.

This year, Nova Scotia is celebrating the 250th anniversary of parliamentary democracy in Canada. But the election history of this province shows not all citizens were included in early elections and those that were sometimes were intimidated, bribed or assaulted.

Hardly democratic, you say? Well, you're absolutely right.

Full Article:


Hartford Loses Appeal Of Freedom Of Information Decision


Hartford Loses Appeal Of Freedom Of Information Decision


Courant Staff Writer

July 26, 2008

A state court judge has dismissed the city's appeal of a state Freedom of Information Commission decision, upholding a $400 fine against a city attorney for unlawfully denying access to public documents.

The city has argued for nearly 16 months that public documents it turned over to the state investigators conducting a corruption probe into the administration of Mayor Eddie A. Perez are exempt from public disclosure.

The Courant requested those documents in March 2007, but city attorneys refused to release the documents, arguing that they wanted "to protect the integrity of the investigation."

The Courant filed a complaint with the FOI Commission, which ruled unanimously in the newspaper's favor last fall, saying that the city had acted "without reasonable grounds." The court also ordered that Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Nasto pay a $400 fine. The city appealed that decision in state court.

In February, Superior Court Judge Henry S. Cohn ordered the city to release some of the documents in question. They confirmed that state criminal investigators had been interested since at least February 2007 in a no-bid deal between the city and North End political figure Abraham L. Giles.

Then, on July 11, Cohn held a hearing in New Britain Superior Court to discuss whether or not to uphold the fines against Nasto. At that hearing, Richard Wareing — a lawyer with Pepe & Hazard, a firm hired by the city to handle the appeal — argued that the fines should be dismissed. Nasto was right to deny access to the documents in question because while the documents themselves were public, the compilation of those documents sent to state investigators was not, Wareing said.

Cohn told Wareing he was unconvinced.

"That's just not FOI in this state," Cohn said. "That's not what it's founded on. That's not the principle."

In Cohn's ruling Wednesday, he said the city's argument that the documents were exempt because they were records of a law enforcement agency and their disclosure would prejudice a pending investigation "lacks validity."

Cohn again took issue with the city's argument that the compilation of city documents sent to state investigators was exempt from disclosure.

"The basis of freedom of information laws is that the public has the right to examine any public record created and retained by a public agency," Cohn wrote.

Finally, Wareing argued that Nasto didn't deserve to be fined $400 for his action because he had "a plausible legal argument for refusing the records" and that fines are reserved for blatant conduct.

Cohn disagreed and upheld the fine.

It is unclear whether the city will appeal Cohn's decision. Sarah Barr, spokeswoman for Perez, said that Corporation Counsel John Rose Jr. was unavailable for comment.

Contact Jeffrey B. Cohen at

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Accountability begins with open government (Colorado Press Association Editorial)

open government 2008

Accountability begins with open government

By the Colorado Press Association
Article Last Updated: 07/21/2008 11:26:39 AM MDT

The following editorial was provided by the Colorado Press Association as part of its Open Government 2008 series. To read more of the series, click on the links at the end of the editorial.


That one word describes the importance of open government.

Elected and appointed public officials are accountable to the people they serve. And you are the people they serve. You selected them, whether in municipal, school board, county, legislative congressional or presidential elections, to serve you.

Their decision-making process should be conducted in open meetings. Their actions should be conducted so you know why and how they make their decisions.

full article: 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BC Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis to issue FOI compliance report cards


July 22, 2008



—Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis today announced that, starting with a pilot project later this year, he will begin issuing regular public report cards assessing the performance of government ministries in complying with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act ("FIPPA").

In his annual report released today, the Commissioner raised concerns about the ongoing struggles of many government ministries to respond to access requests in a timely fashion, as FIPPA requires. "I have decided that other steps are necessary to bring pressure to bear," the Commissioner said. "Beginning with a pilot later this year, we will start a program of report cards grading each ministry on their compliance with the law. The main focus is timeliness––access delayed is access denied and timely access is critically important for the public's right to know what government is doing."

Loukidelis also reported that privacy breaches are on the rise in British Columbia. "We investigated 92 privacy breaches last year" he said, adding, "Businesses and governments need to do a better job of protecting peoples' personal information. They should review their practices and constantly update them as risks change."

Another important report theme is the apparent lack of awareness of many public bodies and organizations of their information security weaknesses. "This is bad for privacy," the Commissioner said. "Organizations and public bodies need to inventory their personal information holdings and regularly assess and where necessary upgrade their security arrangements. If personal information isn't properly protected, it'll go walkabout and that's not good."

Loukidelis also called on the provincial government to ensure that patient privacy is fully protected in the electronic health record system it's now building. The system will integrate patient health records and allow immediate access to those records by a wide range of authorized users. "The government has passed legislation requiring patients to be given a meaningful degree of control over who can access their medical information" the Commissioner said. "Now the government has to follow through on this promise and build a system that offers patients meaningful control over who gets to see their health information and why."


For further information contact:

Jo-Anne Zimmerman

Executive Assistant to the Commissioner

(250) 387-0777

Mailing Address: PO Box 9038, Stn Prov Govt, Victoria B.C. V8W 9A4 Location: Third Floor, 756 Fort Street T: 250 387 5629 F: 250 387 1696 Toll Free enquiries through

Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867 or 660-2421 (Vancouver) W:

N.B. ponders disclosing salaries at universities:

N.B. ponders disclosing salaries at universities

Published Wednesday July 23rd, 2008



Fredericton's public university presidents refuse to voluntarily disclose information on their salaries.

But Post-Secondary Education Minister Ed Doherty said change is coming.

"It's now time to implement some of the recommendations (from our post-secondary education review), but it's too early to say exactly what changes will take place," Doherty said. "It's an all-inclusive plan ... but accountability is part of it."


Full article: <>

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Information Commissioner appeals a federal court decision that limits the scope of the Access to Information Act

Information Commissioner appeals a federal court decision that limits the scope of the Access to Information Act

Ottawa, ON


OTTAWA, July 21, 2008 - The Information Commissioner has appealed a Federal Court decision today that substantially restricts the way the Access to Information Act is applied to records generated or obtained by ministers in carrying out the work of their departments.

The decision concerns an important principle of law in defining whether records in ministers' offices that relate to the administration of the department, such as agendas, notes, emails and other documents,  come 'under the control of a government institution' and are subject to the Access to Information Act.

"It is important that the law be clarified to avoid limiting the scope of the legislation." said Assistant Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault. "As public officers, ministers and their staff need to be accountable in disclosing information relating to a minister's administration of their department."

The court ruled that records in ministers' offices are not subject to disclosure under the Act, apart from certain records deemed to be under the department's control. The criterion set by the court for establishing which records fall into this category is that they can be requested and obtained by the Deputy Minister or by senior officials to deal with departmental matters. The Information Commissioner's position is that this criterion leaves the determination of which records come under the control of the department open to interpretation and could severely limit the scope of the Access to Information Act.  In the Commissioner's view, a record generated or obtained by a Minister, or on his behalf, relating to the administration of their department, is subject to the Act regardless of where the record is located.

The Office of the Information Commissioner first filed applications to the Federal Court in 2005 in cases against the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Transport and the Commissioner of the RCMP. On June 19, 2008 the federal court decided in favour of the Commissioner to release the documents requested in the case of the RCMP but ruled against disclosing a number of specific records requested from the Privy Council Office, the Department of National Defence and the Department of Transport.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Nadine Welter
Senior Communications Officer
(613) 996-6955

For general enquiries, please visit our website at or contact:
Office of the Information Commissioner
(613) 995-2410
Toll free: 1-800-267-0441
TDD (hearing impaired): 613-947-0388

Mayor files FOI request to get Crombie report (Oshawa)

Mayor files FOI request to get Crombie report

Mon Jul 21, 2008


By: By Jillian Follert

OSHAWA -- Typically, it's reporters and members of the public who file Freedom of Information (FOI) requests as a way of prying information out of government agencies.

Now Mayor John Gray is trying his hand at it.

On Monday, the mayor filed an FOI with Transport Canada in the hope of extracting a copy of the Crombie Report from Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Full article: <>

Rudd move on transparency |

Rudd move on transparency

  • Michelle Grattan
  • July 23, 2008

    FEDERAL ministers have agreed to scrap their unilateral power to keep documents secret, beginning with what the Rudd Government promises will be comprehensive reform of freedom-of-information law.

    Special Minister of State John Faulkner also promised a big change in the culture of secrecy in the public service.

    All decisions refusing access to documents will be open to review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, under amendments going to Parliament in the spring session. Despite the greater transparency, some documents will remain off limits.

    Full article:<>

Monday, July 21, 2008

Freedom of Information Standards Failed by 38 States

Freedom of Information Standards Failed by 38 States

Last update: 7:00 a.m. EDT July 19, 2008
BOCA RATON, Fla., July 19, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Freedom of Information Acts (FOI) allowing public access to government records is described as a "haphazard construction" among the states according to a recent study undertaken by the Better Government Association (BGA) and the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC).
The study went on to report that 38 of the 50 states have a grade of "F" in overall responses to FOI requests. The results of the study were published by today.
full article:

Friday, July 18, 2008

MPs have won their battle to keep their addresses private (UK)

MPs have won their battle to keep their addresses private.

Ministers moved an order to exclude addresses, travel plans and security bills from Freedom of Information laws.

The High Court had ordered addresses be published as part of a wider FoI battle over expenses claims, to check MPs were living in properties they claimed for.

But Commons leader Harriet Harman told MPs they had to remain private to protect MPs and their neighbours from "harassment at home".

She had pledged to protect MPs' addresses from publication - but the order moved by the government also stops travel plans, expenditure on security and the identity of people delivering goods from being disclosed.

People have a right to know where their MPs do live in my view
David Taylor
Labour MP

FOI Law Illuminates University of Central Arkansas Deed

Thursday, July 17, 2008 10:14 AM CDT

FOI Law Illuminates UCA Deed

We were all set to pounce on University of Central Arkansas President Lu Hardin for the troubled $300,000 bonus that he got, but he announced Wednesday that he would give the money back. So, yes, mistakes were made, as they say, but he finally came around to doing the right thing.

Perhaps it was the story that appeared Wednesday that got Hardin's attention. A public chastisement from the governor would do that. Gov. Mike Beebe said "Lu Hardin made a mistake," and what he did "wasn't right."

"The FOI is there for a reason. Complying with both the letter and spirit of the FOI is something we ought to do."
 - Gov. Mike Beebe

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A transparent government is an honest government. - TEAM HAMMOND TAXPAYERS' GROUP





Monday, July 14, 2008


A transparent government is an honest government. Here's how you can find out if local government agencies share information with you, the voter.




A transparency checklist is a list of website transparency features that, ideally, voters and regular citizens in any part of the United States will be able to find when they visit the websites of counties, cities, school districts, and state agencies.


Sunshine Review believes that citizens are entitled to this information in order to effectively exercise their right to hold politicians and public officials accountable. (See No taxation without information.)




The The "My Government Website" Project is a project of Sunshine Review, the Sam Adams Alliance and people from all around the country to collaboratively determine the extent to which government-managed websites contain the information people need.


City websites

County websites

School district websites

State agency websites




While steps like the Freedom of Information Act have lead to a more open government the burden should fall on the state to make this information accessible to the public. Below are some of the topics which could be covered or expanded:


Budgets: The website should include the current budget. Bonus points if the website shows the budgets for previous years, and a graph showing increases or decreases over time to help citizens evaluate and understand trends in local government spending. The checkbook register and credit card receipts would also be welcome.

Open meeting laws should include notices about public meetings of its governing board, and minutes of past meetings. Also check for Meeting Agendas for future and/or past meetings.

Elected Officials should include names of elected officials, and their contact information, including email addresses. Also we should be able to see an elected official's voting record.

Administrative Officials should be listed on government websites. The website should include the names of key administrators, and their contact information, including e-mail addresses.


Audits: The website should include regular audits of state agencies and departments, including the Governor and the Assembly; audit results posted online; scheduled financial audits posted online; and performance audits for state programs.

Contracts: The website should include rules governing contracts posted online; bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000 must be posted online; and vendor campaign contributions posted with contract.

Lobbying: If the unit of government belongs to any lobbying associations that it helps to fund by paying association or membership dues, that information should be disclosed on the government unit's website.

Public records: The website should include the name of the person who is in charge of fulfilling open records requests, along with contact information for that person.

Taxes: The website should include the central location for all tax information, including state "fees" such as drivers' licenses; Tax documents for all elected officials and each agency discloses all sources of revenue.

From Sunshine Monday, July 14, 2008


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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RTKNS AGM President's Report 2008

Annual General Meeting

Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia

(July 15, 2008)

President's Report

Since our last general meeting we have confirmed what we expected. It is not an easy task to get our Nova Scotian citizens interested in encouraging government openness and accountability through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. At the same time our Board agrees it is a task worth pursuing.

Politicians and others express their concern about the lack of civic engagement across the country. Our RTK coalition recognizes there are many causes but what surprises us is that we appear to be alone in identifying government secrecy and lack of accountability as one of those causes and a major one at that. We have pressed that point in public addresses, meetings with politicians and citizen groups and on our website.


We have had a significant achievement over the past year thanks to our Secretary Treasurer Brian Awad, a Halifax lawyer. In my last report I told you we had decided to seek the permission of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia to intervene in a freedom of information case involving one of the province's major regional development authorities. The South West Regional Development Authority rejected an application for records and told the applicant that the Authority was not subject to the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The coalition took a different view and asked for an opportunity to express this view in Court. During the hearing the Judge recognized that our coalition was an expert on the subject we wanted to address in our request for intervention. We were granted the Court's permission. We are not taking sides in the case itself.

The case will be heard on August 7, 2008. Brian will again represent our coalition. I believe we have reason to be confident we will make our case successfully.


We are severely limited in what we would like to do throughout the province by a lack of funds. We have not been able to attract stable funding. The coalition needs to find someone with expertise in that area to join us. Until then we will be unable to accept invitations like the one I received as President of RTKNS to participate in a Public Policy Forum Workshop on modernizing access to information legislation in Ottawa in June.


We are fortunate to have several volunteers giving their time to the cause. Indranil Dutta looks after the books, and Joanna Porter helps with events organization. Particular thanks goes to Greg Pemberton for his wonderful work on the website. It is all his.


The Coalition held a second Right to Know Week forum in September. A guesstimate of 200 people turned out to hear the Deputy Halifax Police Chief speak on access to police records; three King's College Journalism students interview politicians on their views of our freedom of information legislation; and a debate between journalist/author Stephen Kimber and a former deputy minister of justice, Doug Keefe.

In May 2008, I joined the federal information commissioner to speak to a gathering of Nova Scotia public servants about their responsibilities under access legislation.

Also in May, at the annual Atlantic Journalism meeting, I joined a panel discussion on freedom of information with Peter Haggert, the Editor of the Daily Gleaner in Fredericton, NB; Jacques Poitras of CBC Fredericton, the same Doug Keefe and Linden MacIntyre of the CBC's The Fifth Estate.

I also spoke with a Halifax citizen action committee which wanted to learn more about how to get information from the municipality.

The coalition is now preparing a submission to Nova Scotia Select Committee on Participation in the Democratic Process. This coincides with the province's celebration of 250 years of democracy in Nova Scotia. The select committee's website encouraging citizen participation in the hearings included a letter I had written to the Premier of Nova Scotia expressing the coalition's interest in participating in any efforts to promote "Voter Engagement and Participation."

Throughout the year I was contacted by several dozen people, including journalists, for advice on filing freedom of information applications.

Thank you for your interest.

Darce Fardy


Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia

Opposition against dual role of Data Protection Commissioner (Malta)

Opposition against dual role of Data Protection Commissioner

The word "document" is being widened to signify any document on which any kind or amount of information is available.

The opposition is totally against the Information and Data Protection Commissioner assuming the added responsibility of safeguarding the Freedom of Information Act, Parliament was told yesterday.

Speaking on the second reading of the Bill, opposition spokesman for education and the media Evarist Bartolo said that the ideal guardian of the Act was the Ombudsman. But whoever was given this responsibility should be independent and not be accountable to the Prime Minister or any minister, but directly responsible to Parliament.

He also suggested that the Freedom of Information Act should be enshrined in the Constitution.

Mr Bartolo said that in its present form the Bill was weak and during committee stage the opposition would be doing its utmost to improve it.

In various countries around the world, where this law had been passed, one noted that it was often just the first step to a more transparent government. In other neighbouring countries, he said, the mentality of secrecy was still very strong.

No reference whatsoever was made to the public interest, and this meant the process would be arbitrary and limited.

Full Article:

Study shows fewer open records requests being granted (Texas)

Study shows fewer open records requests being granted

12:00 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Federal agencies are granting fewer Freedom of Information Act requests, a study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government found.

In 2007, federal agencies granted in full or in part about 60 percent of the requests they received. That's down from 69 percent in 1998.

The coalition, an alliance of journalism groups that support government transparency, examined reports federal agencies must file each year about the processing of their FOIA requests. The study examined reports from 1998 to 2007 for the 25 federal agencies that receive the most third-party FOIA requests. The analysis did not include two agencies that get huge numbers of requests from individuals about themselves – the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration.

In their annual reports, federal departments and agencies cite statistics such as the number of requests they receive, the number they grant or deny, why records were denied and other information relating to FOIA request processing. Amendments to the FOIA in 1996 required agencies, starting in 1998, to submit annual reports to the U.S. Attorney General.

Updates to FOIA passed by Congress last year increased the pieces of information that agencies must put in their annual reports – including more details about processing times and a list of the agency's 10 oldest pending FOIA requests.

To get more information, including a link to the coalition's study and Department of Justice studies, go to

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NS Government Addresses Auditor General's Concerns Over Nominee Program

Government Addresses Auditor General's Concerns

Department of Justice

July 15, 2008 1:11 PM

The Auditor General will now have access to privileged documents in order to complete his audit of the Nova Scotia Nominee Program.

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe will view the documents at the Department of Justice's offices without making copies in order to maintain solicitor-client privilege.

The government and Auditor General came to this solution so that he can complete his audit.

"I am confident this solution will protect the important principles of solicitor-client privilege and cabinet confidentiality while at the same time ensuring public accountability through the audit process," said Attorney General Cecil Clarke.

The Auditor General's access will commence this week. The government will also work with the Office of the Auditor General to review the office's legislation with the aim to create statutory protection of privileged documents.

"If appropriate, we will bring forward legislation that will protect the Auditor General from court orders requiring the release of confidential documents. We want to deal with this accountability issue in the public interest" said Mr. Clarke.


     Auditor General Jacques Lapointe will have access to

privileged documents in order to complete his audit of the Nova

Scotia Nominee Program.

     Attorney General Cecil Clarke says the Auditor General can

visit Justice Department offices and view the cabinet documents,

however, he will not be permitted to make copies so that

solicitor-client privilege is respected.


Media Contact: Carla Grant
              Department of Justice

FOI Implementation after consultations demanded (Pakistan)

Implementation after consultations demanded
By Noor Aftab
Participants of a consultation programme on Monday demanded of the government that proposed Freedom of Information Bill 2008 should come into force after holding detailed consultation with all the stakeholders.
The consultation programme on 'Freedom of Information Bill 2008: Analysis and Recommendations,' was organised by the Consumers Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP) here.
full article

UTT Students Survey FOI Compliance In East Texas

Article published Jun 24, 2007
UTT Students Survey FOI Compliance In East Texas

Special Contributor

Open government training could be a factor in improved compliance rates recorded last year in East Texas, but the educational mandate may not be broad enough to ensure key public employees follow the law, according to a university study.

Journalism students at The University of Texas at Tyler found that two-thirds of the 118 entities they surveyed employ someone with the required training in open records law, although that person may not always be the one who has initial contact with the public.

Under Texas law, all elected or appointed public officials or their designee must complete training approved by the state's attorney general's office.
full article:

Use FOIs to open county government (US)

Use FOIs to open county government
Published: 7/15/2008 12:05 AM

Cook County Board Chairman Todd Stroger's stifling of department head responses to the Herald (July 6) is no doubt the beginning of the county "iron curtain" shielding its shady and clandestine operations.


I'm counting on the Herald to exercise its FOI duties - Freedom of Information Act requests of the county budget, especially expenditures.

As I looked up the FOI on Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Web site, the quote from the act includes "... it is declared to be the public policy of the state of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government ... Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest."

"Illinois' Freedom of Information Act is intended to open the government to all citizens by guaranteeing access to governmental records in whatever form they are maintained.

"The act maintains a clear preference for access to public documents while still protecting legitimate governmental interests and the privacy rights of individual citizens."

Will our government bodies stand behind these statements and obey them?

I can't wait to try them out as a private citizen.

full article:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Khadr interrogation footage (in Guantanamo) puts spotlight on CSIS

Source: Globe and Mail

... But this week, CSIS, which has always operated in the shadows, will find itself in an uncomfortable spotlight. After a series of stunning legal decisions, footage of the CSIS interrogation of Mr. (Omar) Khadr is about to be revealed.

Four DVDs – originally marked "Secret/No Foreign" by U.S. agencies that created them – show the Canadian Security Intelligence Service at work, something that has never happened before. This is being done over the objections of CSIS, which is far better known for destroying its own tapes than showing them, and U.S. agencies who will likely be irritated that Canadians courts have ordered up the DVDs that will provide a rare glimpse inside the secret prison camp operating on leased land in Cuba.

A CSIS agent, who travelled to Guantanamo Bay in February, 2003, will be shown grilling Mr. Khadr about six months after his capture, for seven hours over three days. His face obscured to preserve his secret identity, the agent will be seen asking Mr. Khadr questions about the al-Qaeda figures he met while he was raised in Afghanistan by his fundamentalist parents, before being captured as a 15-year-old alleged "enemy combatant."

... Federal government lawyers had argued that the disclosures of U.S. information could cause rifts with American intelligence. Judge Mosley did not dispute this. "It may cause some harm to Canada-U.S. relations," he ruled, but added he expects the damage will be "minimal."

"In any event," he said, "I am satisfied that the public interest in disclosure of this information outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure."

Read more:

Published on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

July 11, 2008
Contact: Naomi Seligman 202.408.5565

– Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) successfully moved ahead in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for public access to Secret Service records of top conservative religious leaders who have visited the White House or Vice President Cheney's residence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision in CREW v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Security, dismissing the government's appeal.

The district court rejected the administration's argument that the records belong to the president, not the Secret Service, and are therefore not subject to the FOIA. Today's opinion holds that the court does not have jurisdiction to resolve the government's appeal because the district court has not ordered the government to release any records, simply to process CREW's request.

The D.C. Circuit also resoundingly rejected the White House's argument that requiring the government to process the request and invoke exemptions would place a constitutionally impermissible burden on the president or vice president. The court found that CREW's request is "narrowly drawn" and that requiring the administration to rely on the FOIA's exemptions to protect claims of executive privilege "is a routine occurrence, not a uniquely intrusive burden." As a result of the court's ruling, the Secret Service will now have to process CREW's request.

Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel, said, "We are pleased that the D.C. Circuit is requiring the government to provide these Secret Service records that the White House has been trying to hide from the public. The American people are entitled to know who has been influencing the White House."


Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Published on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (


July 9, 2008

Contact: Naomi Seligman 202.408.5565

9 Jul 2008 // Washington, DC – Last evening, District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted CREW's request for a stay pending appeal in CREW v. Office of Administration, a lawsuit seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the White House's loss of millions of emails from White House servers. Although Judge Kollar-Kotelly had ruled last month that the Office of Administration (OA) is not an agency subject to the FOIA, CREW had sought a stay of that ruling to require the White House to preserve documents that would have to be produced, should CREW prevail on appeal. Justice Department lawyers had argued that a stay was unnecessary because they had assured CREW that the records would be preserved, but Judge Kollar-Kotelly rejected this argument, becoming the second judge to rule in litigation brought by CREW that assurances from the White House and/or its counsel that it will preserve documents are not a sufficient substitute for a court order.

Under the Presidential Records Act, all presidential records are transferred to the Archivist at the end of the administration. As a result, CREW is concerned that even if the court of appeals rules in CREW's favor and finds OA is an agency, meaning that its records must be produced to CREW, once the records are transferred to the Archivist they will be difficult to recover. Although CREW had asked that OA maintain control of these records past the end of the Bush administration, the court ruled only that if the appeal is not resolved by January 5, 2009, CREW may renew its motion for a stay addressing the impact of the transition on the requested records.

Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel, said, "This ruling is an important step in holding the White House accountable by ensuring that the records regarding the millions of missing emails are preserved. These records belong not to the president, but to the American people. The public deserves an explanation of what happened to the missing emails, and CREW will continue to fight to get that explanation."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

White House threatens to veto e-mail storage bill

White House threatens to veto e-mail storage bill

Ahead of a scheduled House vote Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto a bill aimed at forcing the president and federal agencies to improve preservation of e-mail records.

House aides said that while they expect the measure to get bipartisan support, it will be considered under regular rules because of the veto threat.

The bill has generated some Republican opposition due to a provision the White House says gives the National Archives and Records Administration new responsibility for overseeing White House record-keeping.

full article

GAO: Federal E-Mail Preservation Spotty (US)

GAO: Federal E-Mail Preservation Spotty

Posted on: Wednesday, 9 July 2008, 12:00 CDT

Legislation to standardize how the U.S. government preserves its mounting e-mail communications is sorely needed, a report says.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday that federal officials are inconsistent in how they preserve their e-mail records, creating significant gaps in the public record, The Washington Post reported.

The issue of e-mail preservation came to the fore Wednesday as the U.S. House of Representative prepared to vote on a bill requiring standardization of e-mail record keeping. The use of e-mails a means of communication within the U.S. government is soaring and federal agencies say they are struggling to determine which e-mails can be deleted and which must be preserved as public records, the newspaper said.

The GAO report concluded that current law is allowing broad discretion to the agencies to determine how e-mails are maintained, with quality varying widely.

The House legislation will impose upon government agencies to put in place a system to keep track of their e-mails and be able to retrieve them, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the Post. He has been investigating the disappearance of years' worth of e-mails generated by the Bush White House.

The Price of Freedom (from the Avon and Somerset Police force website)

The price of freedom (Forcewide)
ADDED: 7/07/2008 13:52
The Avon and Somerset Constabulary crest

Force crest

THOUSANDS of pounds are being spent as Avon and Somerset Constabulary fulfills its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.

The total actual staffing costs of complying with the legislation is currently running at more than £60,000 per year.

Extension to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on January 1 2005.

The aim was to encourage organizations to publish more information proactively and to develop a greater culture of openness.

If the current trend of FoI requests continues, the number of applications for information in 2008 will have more than doubled since the extensions to the act came into force in 2005.

In 2005 there were a total of 374 requests submitted to the force.

So far, to the end of April in 2008 there have been 253 requests; if that trend continues, it is estimated that there will be 759 requests in total for the year.

More than a third of the total FoI requests each year have been identified as having been submitted by media representatives, although it is possible that the actual number of requests from the media is higher
but the person making the request has not identified themselves as a media source.

The demands of complying with the FoI Act are such that the force employs two full-time information officers.

Around half the time of a senior information officer is also dedicated to FoI and the act also places a demand on the force's information manager.

Many of the questions submitted are statistical.

The force already regularly publishes a wide variety of statistics on its website,

And the responses to FoI requests are also published on the website, allowing visitors to search by topic or date, and to view the answers.

The main cost in relation to adhering to the Act is incurred by district and department staff, who have the responsibility of identifying, retrieving and providing the requested information to the FoI team.

Although difficult to quantify with any accuracy, the time expended is considerable.

Some requests can be processed within a few days whereas other, more complex, requests may take several weeks to fully process.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: "As a force we are committed to being open, honest and accountable.

"The provisions of the Freedom of Information Act go some considerable way towards achieving that commitment. But that does come at a price."

"I would urge anyone, and particularly media outlets, considering making an FoI request to first visit the questions and answers pages on the website, as it is possible that someone else may have asked the same question you want to, and the answer you are looking for may already be available.

"We are committed to being open, honest and accountable. We are also committed to delivering an effective, efficient and, most importantly, a value for money, policing service.

"I would hope that our communities, and our local media, would support those aims and would bear this in mind when making FoI requests."

Freedom of Information preparations continue

Published on Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Carole Excell
Coordinator, Freedom of Information Unit

By Karen Clarke

Preparations for implementing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act continue this week with a visit from an official of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

full article

Monday, July 07, 2008

Govt clamps down on freedom of information: Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday

Govt clamps down on freedom of information: Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday

Monday, July 07, 2008

11:19 AM

    Govt clamps down on freedom of information

    By ANDRE BAGOO Sunday, July 6 2008

    click on pic to zoom in

    Kenneth Lalla SC...

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    EVERY YEAR, a list of scholarship winners for the ‘A’ Level examinations are released by the Ministry of Education and published in the press. The winners’ names, the subjects they studied, and the schools they attended are made public. Yet this week, as the names, scores and schools attended by the top 200 students in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) were published in the press, the Government declined to tell us who had benefitted from $45million worth of scholarships from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs.

    The Government’s trend of using the supposed letter of the law to block scrutiny of how it is spending taxpayers’ monies started on June 3 when Bridgid Annisette-George, the Attorney General, used the Constitution as well as the Freedom of Information Act in Parliament to support her decision to block inquires over how much money a private attorney had been paid for state briefs.


    This week, that trend continued with Marlene McDonald, the Culture Minister, also citing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, as she blocked a Parliamentary question that had been deferred for 18 weeks over just who had received scholarships, how much they got, which institutions they went on to study at, or for what purpose was the award given.


    But can the Freedom of Information Act, an act that was passed explicitly to provide the public with information, be used to deny the public that very information?


    Full article: <,82006.html>