Monday, January 12, 2009

Newspaper Association 4th Annual Freedom of Information Audit

The Canadian Newspaper Association has released its 4th Annual Freedom of Information Audit.

Two hundred and nineteen requests were mailed to 22 municipal governments and their police services, 10 provinces and Yukon, and 11 federal departments and crown corporations. At each level of government there were five identical requests.

The aim of the audit is to test the time delays, cost and completeness of answers to requests for government information that should be publicly available under access-to-information laws:

"As in previous years, the CNA’s 2008 audit finds that officials across Canada are disturbingly inconsistent in their compliance with laws that underwrite the public’s right to know."

" 'Whether it be details of expenditures by municipalities, or federal policies on talking to the media, what you get and how fast you get it depends on where you are making the request,' said Fred Vallance-Jones, the University of King’s College journalism professor who conducted the audit in collaboration with the CNA."

" 'Information freely available from some government agencies was denied by others. And when it wasn’t denied, prohibitive fee estimates often took it out of the reach of all but the wealthiest requesters,' he said."

"Police reporting on taser usage is a striking example. Officers who use tasers are required to file use-of-force reports, however some police forces demanded exorbitant fees for this information. Winnipeg demanded $4,500, the highest in Canada."

According to the audit, institutions in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon came out on top, with more than 80 per cent of requests answered within the legally prescribed deadlines. News Brunswick had the worst performance.

Meanwhile, south of the Canadian border, secrecy was on the increase according to the Open The Government freedom of information coalition. The American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries and the Special Libraries Association are members of the coalition.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:43 pm


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