Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New UNESCO Publication on Freedom of Information

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has made available a new book offering a comparative analysis of freedom of information laws around the world.

The book is called Freedom of information: a comparative legal survey and is authored by Toby Mendel, Law Programme Director with ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression, an international human rights NGO based in London. It is an update of the original version first published in 2003:

"There has been a veritable revolution in recent years in terms of the right to information, commonly understood as the right to access information held by public bodies. Whereas in 1990 only 13 countries had adopted national right to information laws, upwards of 70 such laws have now been adopted globally, and they are under active consideration in another 20-30 countries. In 1990, no inter-governmental organisation had recognised the right to information, now all of the multilateral development banks and a number of other international financial institutions have adopted information disclosure policies. In 1990, the right to information was seen predominantly as an administrative governance reform whereas today it is increasingly being seen as a fundamental human right."

"Even the terminology is starting to change. The term ‘freedom of information’ has historically been common usage and this is reflected in the title of this book, retained from the first edition. However, the term ‘right to information’ is now increasingly being used not only by activists, but also by officials. It is, for example, reflected the title of title of the 2005 India law granting access to information held by public bodies. This version of the book, while retaining the original title, consistently refers to the right to information rather than freedom of information."

"Since the first edition of this book was published in 2003, these changes, which were already well underway, have become more profound and widespread. The adoption of the first right to information law by a country in the Middle East, namely by Jordan in 2007, so that the trend now extends to every commonly referenced geographic region of the world, is emblematic of this. Very significant developments in terms of recognition of access to information as a fundamental human right have also occurred since the first edition was published. These include the first decision by an international court recognising the right to information as an aspect of the general right to freedom of expression, along with decisions by superior courts along the same lines, and more and more emphatic statements by authoritative international bodies and officials
about the status of this right."

"The chapters on International Standards and Trends, Features of a Right to Information Regime and Comparative Analysis have all been updated in the second edition to reflect these developments. The second edition also surveys the laws of 14 countries in all regions of the world, up from the 10 surveyed
in 2003 and covering more regions of the world. The country analyses are more detailed and based on a standardised template."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:53 pm


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