We bring together information on the legal frameworks for the right to information from more than 100 countries.
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RTI Case Law

This database includes summaries of a selection of judgments on the right to information issued by national and regional courts and the UN Human Rights Committee. We aim to include all relevant decisions of international and regional courts and other adjudicative bodies (the African Court and Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Inter-American Court and Commission on Human Rights, and the UN Human Rights Committee). We also include judgments of national courts that establish the most important principles that might be of interest to litigators and activists even outside the country of the court's jurisdiction, focusing on cases issued by top appellate courts that advance protections of the right to information. You might also be interested in looking at websites of information commissioners and non-governmental organizations.

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Title:Country:Year:Court / Arbiter:
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2010Pursuant to Article 14 of the Mexico’s access to information law, which mandates disclosure of otherwise protected documents when they relate to grave violations of fundamental rights and crimes against humanity, prosecutors must release a 2002 preliminary investigation related to the killing of students and other peaceful protesters by military and paramilitary actors.
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2006AppellateThe public prosecutor must release a copy of the report handed by the Special Prosecutor for Political Movements of the Past to President Vicente Fox on April 15, 2006, absent proof of how disclosure would harm ongoing investigations.
Petitioner v. Procuraduría General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2009AppellatePursuant to a provision in Article 14 of the RTI Law, which mandates disclosure of otherwise protected documents when they relate to grave violations of fundamental rights, the public prosecutor must release a preliminary investigation related to the killing of indigenous people by military personnel.
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2007AppellateThe public prosecutor must properly disclose to Petitioner information on the number and status of preliminary investigations formerly conducted by the Special Prosecutor for Social & Political Movements of the Past.
Family of Rosenda Radilla v. Public Prosecutor Mexico2009AppellateThe public prosecutor must release a preliminary investigation related to the forced disappearance of Rosendo Radilla Pacheco under the final provision of Article 14 of the RTI Law, which mandates disclosure of otherwise reserved documents when they relate to grave violations of fundamental rights and crimes against humanity.
Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense)Mexico2007AppellateThe Secretariat of National Defence must release the name of the public officials who purchased body armour and the quantities provided to other agencies since this is public information under Article 7 of the RTI Law. Information on the security level of such armour is classified under Article 13(I) as it compromises national/public security and national defence, and – to the extent it is not already publicly available – should be kept confidential.
Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense)Mexico2007AppellateThe Secretariat of National Defence must release the name and ranks of the persons who ordered the withdrawal of a press release related to the rape and murder of Ms. Ernestina Ascension Rosaria as this constitutes public information.
Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense)Mexico2004AppellateThe Secretariat of National Defence must release the name and ranks of military personnel detained in a military prison camp during the 1970s, since its disclosure does not affect the life, security or health of former detainees and, in the case of military personnel, it is related to activities of an inherently public nature; and it must provide information on whether civilians were also interned there. The fact that civilian detention in a military base was illegal is insufficient to justify the non-existence of documents, and given existing reports, if SND cannot find such information, it must furnish proof that no such information exists.
Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense)Mexico2005SupremeThe Secretariat of National Defence must elaborate a public version of the documents sought by Petitioner which contain a description of the country’s overall defence strategy – public information – but which leaves out strategic and logistical data that, if disclosed, would naturally affect military operations and endanger national security.
Petitioner v. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense)Mexico2004AppellateThe Secretariat of National Defence must fully disclose the conciliation files of the National Commission of Human Rights corresponding to proceedings where conciliation was offered to personnel of the Secretariat of National Defence and which have already been resolved. For those cases that have not been resolved, the Secretariat of National Defence must disclose the files but redact information that would allow an identification of the individuals engaged in such proceedings, to protect both their identities and the integrity of the process.
Petitioner v. Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional (Centre of Investigation and National Security)Mexico2008AppellateThe Centre of Investigation and National Security must disclose public information of 12 contracts for the provision of equipment entered with SOGAMS S.A. de C.V, outlining public information not related to the equipment or materials themselves, such as term, price and date, and disclosing the names of non-intelligence personnel. The Centre of Investigation and National Security can legally withhold information on the elements purchased, their characteristics and the intelligence personnel involved in such contracting since this constitutes reserved information.
Turek v. SlovakiaSlovakia2006International / ECHRRefusal of the national authorities to give the applicant access to materials classified as top secret by the former regime violated the applicant’s right to respect for his private life, given that he needed the materials to contest the state’s determination that he had collaborated with State Security agents.
Sir Dawda K Jawara v. The GambiaGambia2000Given that the Government of the Gambia did not contest the allegations concerning the arrest, detention, expulsion, and intimidation of journalists for articles they had published, the Commission concluded that those actions not only deprived journalists of their right to disseminate opinions but also violated the right of the public to information.
Kennedy v. the Charity CommissionUnited Kingdom2014SupremeAlthough under the FOIA, information created for the purposes of an inquiry may be treated as absolutely exempt, the common law may nonetheless require such information to be disclosed. Separate opinions: Principles of transparency and openness are part of the common law. Given their importance, courts will apply a very high standard of review to any decision not to disclose information in answer to questions of real public interest. Open justice is another fundamental principle of common law. Judicial, and quasi-judicial, processes should be open to public scrutiny, unless and to the extent, that there are good reasons for secrecy.
Stichting Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe v CommissionEuropean Union2013International / EUThe European Commission’s refusal to grant access to documentation containing information about the pesticide glyphosate cannot be justified by reference to the commercial confidentiality or the intellectual property rights of a natural or legal person.
Vilnes and others v. NorwayNorway2014International / ECHRA State’s failure to ensure access to essential information regarding risks associated with use of decompression tables to divers constituted violation of the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.
Österreichische Vereinigung zur Erhaltung, Stärkung und Schaffung eines wirtschaftlich gesunden land- und forstwirtschaftlichen Grundbesitzes v. AustriaAustria2013International / ECHRDecision of the Tyrol Real Property Transactions Commission to refuse information request of an NGO constitutes interference within right to receive and impart information. The complete refusal and commissions choice to hold a monopoly on information, made it impossible for the applicant to carry out its task and is thus not justified as being “necessary in a democratic society” (para. 47)
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2011A government agency must disclose information ordered released in a previous case, yet Petitioner cannot make an appeal where an IFAI resolution has been issued in a previous case that involved substantially the same parties and subject matter
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2011AppellateA government agency cannot unilaterally re-classify information that the information commission had already catalogued as public in a prior decision, but an appeal is inadmissible where a decision has been issued in a previous case that involved substantially the same parties and subject matter
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2004AppellateThe public prosecutor must release information on the internal and preliminary investigations regarding probable crimes of genocide committed by government forces against participants in student demonstrations, notwithstanding assertions by the public prosecutor that the information does not exist, as it should be present in the government archives.
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor)Mexico2004AppellateThe public prosecutor must release information on the internal and preliminary investigations regarding probable crimes of genocide committed by government forces against participants in student demonstrations, notwithstanding assertions by the public prosecutor that the information does not exist, as it should be present in the government archives.
Kline v. Official Secretary to the Governor GeneralAustralia2013SupremeSection 6A(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 excludes from disclosure documents held by the Official Secretary to the Governor-General unless they relate to “matters of an administrative nature,” which does not include documents relating to substantive powers.
Access Info Europe v. Council of the European UnionEuropean Union2011International / EUThe Council infringed Regulation No 1049/2001 by denying disclosure of information relating to the identity of delegations of European Member States making policy proposals under an Article 4(3) exemption to the Regulation because the risk that delegations would refrain from submitting written proposals does not sufficiently undermine the decision-making process to justify the refusal of access to the requested information.
ADC v. PAMIArgentina2012SupremeThe right of access to public information is provided for in the Constitution. The state has the duty to adopt legislative or regulatory measures to guarantee this right. There is a direct and immediate relationship between access to public information and the distribution of public advertising budgets.
Boniface Okezie v. Attorney-General of the Federation and The Economic and Financial Crimes CommissionNigeria2013First instancePublic institutions must comply with requests for information within seven days. If they refuse to comply, they must supply specific bases for refusal under the FOI Act in a notice to the applicant within seven days of the request.
Bucur and Toma v. RomaniaRomania2013International / ECHRThe criminal conviction of a public employee for revealing, in a high-profile press conference, irregularities in a government wiretapping intelligence program amounts to a violation of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
In re Articles 27 and 42 of Decree 1799 of 2000Colombia2003ConstitutionalInformation unrelated to maintaining national security and with no material link to protecting territorial integrity and defending democratic institutions or to the enjoyment of fundamental individual rights, including the right to privacy, may not be restricted.
Canada (Minister of Environment) v. Canada (Information Commissioner)Canada2007AppellateThe Minister of Environment may not deny access to discussion papers on the safety and regulatory treatment of a fuel supplement under Section 21(1)(a) (advice and recommendations), (b) (consultations and deliberations) and Section 23 (solicitor-client privilege).
Cardenas v. Mayor of HuamangaPeru2011AppellateThe city must deliver information related to the travel, and travel expenses, of public officials as supported by the principle of publicity and the right to access information.
Casas Chardon v. Ministry of TransportationPeru2009ConstitutionalSenior officials have to disclose asset declarations concerning their income and other benefits paid by the public sector and also concerning their real estate interests and movable property recorded in a public register. Given that all detailed asset declarations are made available to the national audit agency and only a summary to the public, information on private income is properly restricted on the grounds of privacy and security of a person.
Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) v. Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC)Liberia2013First instanceThe asset declarations of Cabinet members and their deputies shall be disclosed. The harm that might be caused by disclosure is outweighed by public interest and serves the aim of fighting corruption in Liberia
Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi and Izama Angelo v. Attorney GeneralUganda2010First instanceIn seeking disclosure of the contents of confidential oil contracts between the government and various companies, the applicants failed to meet the legal standard of Sec. 34(b) of the Access to Information Act because they did not show that the public benefit in disclosure outweighed the harm to the third parties.
Chavez v. National Housing AuthorityPhilippines2007SupremeThe 1987 Constitution provides that, despite a lack of enabling law that could require government bodies to publicly disclose information related to government projects and policies, there is a still a duty to permit access to such information.
Ciarán Toland supported by Sweden, Finland and Denmark v. European ParliamentEuropean Union2011International / EUParliament may not refuse to disclose audit reports unless it explicitly determines that (i) disclosure of a requested document would specifically and actually undermine a protected interest, and there is no overriding public interest justifying disclosure, and (ii) the risk of the protected interest being undermined is reasonably foreseeable and not purely hypothetical.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. US Department of Homeland Security and OthersUnited States2007First instanceWhite House and Vice Predisdential Residence visitor records are "agency records" subject to FOIA disclosure because such records are generated, routinely preserved, and selectively disposed of by the Secret Service.
City of Ottawa v. OntarioCanada2010AppellateThe freedom of information law does not require disclosure to the public of personal emails, unrelated to work, even though sent and received by government employees on their workplace email accounts.
Claase v. Information Officer of South African AirwaysSouth Africa2006AppellateA retired pilot was entitled, under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), to a record held by a private airlines because he was able to establish that the record existed and that he needed it to protect a right.
Claude Reyes et al. v. ChileChile2006International / IACHRFailure of a state body to disclose information on environmental matters requested by an NGO violated the right of access to state-held information, which is an element of the right to freedom of expression (Article 13 of American Convention on Human Rights).
Clutchco (Pty) Ltd v. DavisSouth Africa2005SupremeConstitution and ATI Act allow for access to information held by private parties when reasonably required; the petitioner shareholder’s need for corporate documents was insufficiently pressing in this case.
Commission v. APIEuropean Union2010International / EUEU institutions may rely on a general presumption that disclosure of pleadings provided by them in cases before the European courts would undermine the purpose of court proceedings. Under that presumption, access can be refused without an individualized assessment of the documents. However, the presumption no longer exists once a case has been closed, and a similar presumption relating to interference with investigations and audits is also inappropriate after judgment has been delivered in infringement proceedings. The onus for proving overriding public interest in disclosure is on the party requesting disclosure.
Commission v. Technische Glaswerke IlmenauEuropean Union2010International / EUEU institutions may rely on a general presumption that disclosure of documents in the administrative file, related to state legal aid review process, in principle undermines protection of the objectives of investigation activities. To rebut such presumption, the interested party must demonstrate that the requested document is not covered by that presumption, or that there is a higher public interest justifying the disclosure of the document.
Common Cause v. Union of IndiaIndia1996SupremeThe scope of the term "conduct of election" in Article 324 of the Constitution of India is broad enough to give the Election Commission authority to issue directions for political parties to submit details of all election-related expenditures.
Conrad Stefaans Brümmer v. the Minister of Social Development and OthersSouth Africa2009ConstitutionalA thirty-day time limit for parties who wish to challenge a denial of a request for information in court is inadequate; until the legislature passes a law setting a fair time limit, requesters will have 180 days in which to file.
Casas Cordero and Others v. National Customs ServiceChile2007ConstitutionalThe right of access to government information is implicitly protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of expression and the constitutional principle of a democratic republic. Information held by Chile’s Customs Agency regarding tariffs must be disclosed unless disclosure would clearly harm the legitimate commercial interests of an objecting third party.
Corporate Officer of the House of Commons v. Information Commissioner, Brooke, Leapman, and Ungoed-ThomasUnited Kingdom2008AppellateGiven legitimate public interests at stake, specific details regarding the expenditures and addresses of Members of Parliament are to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, notwithstanding protections under the Data Protection Act of 1998 against disclosure of personal information.
Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación, S.622.XXXIII “S.,V. c/ M., D.A. s/medidas precautoriasArgentina1998SupremeWhere the essential rights of freedom of the press and individual privacy collide, a court must engage in a factual inquiry to determine the stronger interest; when such privacy interest involves a minor’s personal family situation, the dissemination of the information may be prohibited.
In re Constitutionality of various acts of primary and secondary legislation related to archives and classification regimeHungary1994ConstitutionalFreedom of scientific life, the right to protection of personal data and the right to freedom of information need to be balanced against one another. The state is obliged to guarantee access to documents of communist ruling parties for scientific research. Freedom of information and scientific life cannot be regulated by secondary legislation. Only people holding public power can classify information as a state or official secret.
Department for Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform v. Information Commissioner and Friends of the EarthUnited Kingdom2008First instanceInformation communicated between governmental officials and lobbyists is subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, as there exists a strong public interest in ensuring that bribery or corruption does not take place in such interactions and that individuals have an opportunity to put forth alternative positions to those being advanced by lobbyists.
Department for Education and Skills v. Information Commissioner and The Evening StandardUnited Kingdom2007First instanceSection 35 of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000 confers a qualified, not absolute, government policy formulation exemption. Such information is public if there is an overriding public interest in favour of disclosure.
Department of Health v. Information Commissioner and Rt Hon John Healey MP and Nicholas Cecil United Kingdom2012First instanceFOIA exemption on disclosure of information relating to the formulation or development of government policy can be outweighed by a public interest to disclose. Public authority must release risk registers evaluating health policy if the request is made when policy consultation and formulation has been largely completed, but not during a period of consultation and when the register includes more sensitive policy information.
Derry City Council v. The Information CommissionerUnited Kingdom2006First instanceA contract between a public authority and a third party contractor is not subject to exemptions primarily intended to protect third parties when the exemption arguments are not raised by the third party contractor itself but rather the public authority on behalf of the third party contractor.
Desislava Krasteva (bTV) v. the Administrative Court – VarnaBulgaria2009First instanceInformation in a court file was ordered disclosed because of allegations that the information was relevant to establishing that the chairperson of the court had accepted bribes, and bribery by a judicial officer is related to pubic life.
Dj. Zanni vs Zhilkomservis No.3 Housing CompanyRussia2011First instanceHousing companies have to disclose budgetary and other information concerning their activities. Information can only be withheld if it falls under and an exemption stipulated by law.
El-Masri v. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Macedonia2012International / ECHRMacedonia violated Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibiting torture and inhuman or degrading treatment when it unlawfully detained a German national, subjected him to physical abuse and interrogation, handed him over to the United States for continued mistreatment, and refused to carry out a proper investigation into the circumstances The inadequate character of the investigation in the case had an impact on the right to truth regarding the relevant circumstances of the case, rendering the case important not only for the applicant and his family, but also for other victims of similar crimes and the general public.
Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council v. Central Information Commission & Navneet KaurIndia2008AppellateThe Court ruled that a “trade facilitation organization” is a public authority that must abide by the RTI Act because it (a) receives financial support from the government, and (b) is subject to some administrative control, including that it is audited by a government department, reports to the central government through a department, and receives department assignments.
Elizabeth Flores Negri v. Rector of the National University of AsunciónParaguay2007First instanceThe Paraguayan Constitution provides that people have the right to petition governmental authorities for information as well as the right to be provided with that information, unless the authority timely responds with an exception specifically provided for by the American Converntion of Human Rights and related regional jurisprudence.
Empresa Folha da Manhã S/A v. the President of the House of RepresentativesBrazil2009SupremeThe House of Representatives has a duty to disclose to the media information about expenses of its members.
Environmental Foundation Ltd., v. Urban Development Authority of Sri LankaSri Lanka2005SupremeRefusal of a development agency, which is a public body, to disclose information about plans to allow a private company to develop a public beach area, violated the constitutional right to freedom of expression, speech and publication of a non-profit organization dedicated to protection of the environment, because the organization acted in the public interest in seeking more information on the proposed transaction.
European Commission v. Agrofert HoldingEuropean Union2012International / EUEU institutions may rely on a general presumption that disclosure of documents exchanged between the European Commission and undertakings in the course of merger control proceedings undermines both commercial interests and the objective of investigative activities. The applicant may nonetheless demonstrate overriding public interest in disclosure. The presumption does not apply to internal EU documents once the proceedings are closed.
European Commission v. Bavarian LagerEuropean Union2010International / EUWhere a request based on Regulation No 1049/2001 (Access to Documents Regulation) seeks to obtain documents including personal data, Regulation No 1045/2001 (Data Protection Regulation) applies in its entirety. When requesting minutes of a meeting between the Commission and a member state that include the names of the participants, the requester must establish an express and legitimate purpose or need for disclosure.
Forests Survey Inspection Request Case [Petitioner v. Supervisor of County of Ichon]South Korea1989ConstitutionalRestriction of access to information is unreasonable—in violation of a person’s right to know—where the information has not been classified as confidential, disclosure does not implicate the invasion of another’s privacy, and such person has a direct interest in the information.
Freedom of Information Movement v. Clalit Health ServicesIsrael2011AppellateIsrael's largest health services provider, a public entity, must disclose a donation agreement made with the U.S. Schneider Family Foundation concerning a large contribution because the public has a right to know agreements made between public entities and private donors.
Gabi Thesing and Bloomberg Finance LP v. European Central Bank European Union2012International / EUThe European Central Bank must refuse access to a document if there is public interest in non-disclosure due to the potential impact on the financial policy of the Union or a Member State. EU law does not provide for weighing that public interest against an “overriding public interest in disclosure.”
Garcia v. Board of InvestmentsPhilippines1989SupremeApplications filed by a foreign investment group to build a petrochemical plant are covered by the constitutional right to information and have to be disclosed with the exception of privileged information containing the investors’ trade secrets and other confidential financial information.
Geraguyn Khorhurd Patgamavorakan Akumb v. ArmeniaArmenia2009International / ECHRThe Court rejected as inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies a case seeking access to information where the applicant's lack of information on an information request prevented domestic courts from examining the merits.
Gergely v. Ministry of Development and Economics ("the Gripen case")Hungary2008AppellateThe Ministry of Defense, as an organ performing state functions, is obliged to disclose a list of deliverables, determined in the framework of an offset agreement between Hungary and Sweden. The fact that the overall offset procedure has not been finalized does not mean that all related documents were preparatory documents. RTI law overwrites private agreements on non-disclosure.
Gilby v. Information Commissioner and the Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeUnited Kingdom2008First instanceDisclosure of information relating to arms trade between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia could cause real and substantial prejudice to UK international relations, the harm of which outweighs any public interest in favour of disclosure. However, information relating specifically to the role of UK government officials in accepting bribes is subject to disclosure.
Gillberg v. SwedenSweden2012International / ECHRA public employee is not protected under Article 10 of the Convention (right not to impart information) when it refuses to make research material available even though(i) such material belongs to a university, (ii) a university is ready to disclose it, and (iii) the employee does not owe any statutory duty of secrecy towards research participants. Finding otherwise would impinge on the right to receive information in the form of access to the public documents concerned.
Gomes Lund et. al. v. BrazilBrazil2010International / IACHRThe right to truth about gross human rights violations arises from Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights in combination with other rights. A State may not legitimately deny access to information about gross human rights violations on grounds of state secrecy, and must entertain requests for such information in good faith. The burden of proof regarding the non-existence of relevant records lies with the state.
Greenwatch (U) Ltd v. Attorney General of Uganda and Uganda Electricity Transmission Co.LtdUganda2002First instanceA power company wholly owned by the state is a government agent and therefore power agreements to which it is a party are public documents, although corporate citizens requesting access to such documents must adduce evidence as to status of their members as citizens, which an organization did not do.
Gudiel Alvarez et al. (Diario Militar) v. GuatemalaGuatemala2012International / IACHRThe forced disappearances of 26 individuals that occurred from 1983-1985 during a period of internal armed conflict violated the right to life, personal integrity, personal liberty, and juridical personality of the victims. The state’s actions and subsequent failure to conduct a prompt, effective investigation into the forced disappearances also violated the right to truth and freedom of association of the victims’ family as well as the public at large.
Guja v. MoldovaMoldova2008International / ECHRSeverely sanctioning a civil servant for his public disclosure to the press of internal documents revealing possible governmental corruption constitutes a violation of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
H.J. Heinz Co. of Canada Ltd. v. Canada (Attorney General)Canada2006SupremeThird parties who apply for judicial review of a decision to disclose information under section 44 of the Access to Information Act may rely on the section 19 privacy exemption, and are not limited to the section 20 confidential business information exemption.
Han v. Korean Broadcasting SystemSouth Korea2008AppellateKorean Broadcasting System is a public institution and as such has to disclose a tape of a news documentary that has never been broadcasted. Disclosure does not violate media freedom under the Constitution and the Broadcasting Act because the request was not for broadcasting of the information and it cannot be regarded as a restriction to or interference with freedom of the press or freedom and independence of programming.
IFAW Internationaler Tierschutz-Fonds gGmbH v. European CommissionEuropean Union2012International / EUWhen a person is denied access to information originating from a Member State on the basis of that state’s objection, the Court has a duty to consult disputed documents in camera to assess whether access to them could validly be refused on the basis of the exceptions provided for in Regulation 1049/2001.
In re Constitutionality of Law No. 20.088Chile2005ConstitutionalConstitutional amendments providing unrestricted public access to asset declarations of public officials are constitutional and do not conflict with the right of privacy guaranteed by Article 19.
In re the Constitutionality of Provisions on Record Keeping of Governmental SessionsHungary2006ConstitutionalThe government is under the obligation to keep records for public information, whether for a short or a long period of time, because it would otherwise directly and seriously restrict the right of access to public information. An act should regulate the record keeping of governmental sessions.
In re Constitutionality of Acts LXIII of 1992 and LXV of 1995Hungary2004ConstitutionalInformation created for internal use and in connection with the preparation of decisions could be withheld but only if legislation were amended to provide sufficient guarantees against abuse, namely, to ensure that access should not be restricted after a decision has been made, there must be an opportunity to challenge a decision to withhold information on the merits as well as on procedural grounds, the period for restriction must be limited, and the law must clearly define the restricted category of information.
In re the Constitutionality of Act LXV of 1990 on Local GovernmentsHungary1992ConstitutionalThe right to receive and impart information of public interest is a fundamental right and Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments violates this right by providing town councils with absolute discretion to close meetings and deny access to records of such meetings.
Incorporated Trustees of the Citizens Assistance Centre v. Honourable S. Adeyemi Ikuforiji & Lagos State House of AssemblyNigeria2012First instanceThe Freedom of Information Act 2011 cannot be applied retroactively to requests for information that originated prior to the enactment of the Act. An order of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that should only be granted when all other judicial remedies have been exhausted.
Institute for Democracy in South Africa v. African National Congress, et al.South Africa2005AppellateAccess to information may only be pursued through the Promotion of Access to Information Act (not through Section 32 of the Constitution). Political parties are considered “private bodies” when access to information about private donations is sought.
International Memorial Society v. Russian Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service (FSB), Ministry of CultureRussia2011SupremeRegulations that provide that materials in the files of closed administrative or criminal cases concerning repression victims may be withheld from the public for 75 years apply only to materials that contain personal or family secrets.
Internationaler Hilfsfonds v. Commission European Union2010International / EURequiring an applicant to resubmit his request for information after the requested institution’s definitive refusal to provide access, is contrary to the objective of the two-stage process established by Regulation No 1049/2001, namely - to guarantee swift and straightforward processing of applications for access to documents.
Jenny Cabrera v. Ministry of JusticePeru2007ConstitutionalFees charged for access to copies of public information may not exceed market rate for reproduction as established by the rules of administrative procedures of the public agency in question.
Johnson v. Information Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice (Previously the Department of Constitutional Affairs)United Kingdom2007First instanceIndividuals may request information held by government agencies even when the requested information requires additional work to compile. However, if the cost of such additional work exceeds the limits prescribed by the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, the government agency has no obligation to comply with the request.
Jose Maria Sison v. Council of The European UnionEuropean Union2007International / EUEuropean Union institutions have a margin of appreciation when making complex and delicate decisions regarding the protection of interests of the particularly sensitive and essential nature under Article 4(1) of Regulation No 1049/2001. Documents held by public authorities concerning persons or entities suspected of terrorism and falling within the category of sensitive documents as defined by Article 9 of Regulation No 1049/2001 must not be disclosed to the public in order not to prejudice the effectiveness of the operational fight against terrorism and thereby undermine the protection of public security.
Kaneko v. Japan (“Hakata Station Film Case”)Japan1969SupremeThe constitutional protection for freedom of expression incorporates the freedom to report facts, and extends to the freedom to gather news necessary for factual reporting. However, these rights are not absolute and it is not a violation to mandate disclosure by the news media of television footage where necessary to ensure a fair trial.
Kariuki v. Attorney GeneralKenya2011First instanceThe salaries and allowances of the Armed Forces personnel are not private or confidential and must be disclosed to the requester and the Court.
Kenedi v. HungaryHungary2009International / ECHRThe Hungarian ministry’s reluctance to comply with the courts’ rulings and allow unrestricted access to documents sought for historical research purposes constitutes a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Sweden v. CommissionEuropean Union2007International / EUIf a member state denies under Article 4(5) of the Regulation consent for a document held by an EU institution to be released, it must ground the refusal in one of the exceptions under the Regulation.
Lachezar Lisicov (Desant daily) v. the President of BulgariaBulgaria2010First instanceThe Access to Public Information Act requires public authorities to issue explicit decisions when public information is requested, and to disclose the minutes of a private meeting between heads of state where the contents of the meeting were not confidential.
Lake v. PhoenixUnited States2009SupremeCity was obliged to disclose metadata (electronic information concerning the history of an electronic document) pursuant to state freedom of information law.
Legal Defence & Assistance Project (Gte) Ltd. V. Clerk of the National Assembly of NigeriaNigeria2012First instanceThe salaries of the Members of Parliament are not personal information and should be disclosed.
Legaspi v. Civil Service CommissionPhilippines1987SupremeThe Constitution requires government agencies to to provide information upon request; if they do not want to disclose information, they carry the burden of proving that the information is not of public concern or, if it is of public concern, that the information has been specifically exempted by law. Moreover, a citizen does not need to show any legal or special interest in order to establish his or her right to information.
M & G Media Ltd v. 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa Ltd.South Africa2010AppellateA non-government entity is a public body, and must disclose records about tender proceedings if the nature of the power and functions performed — with respect to the particular records — are public. If the entity is a private body, it must still disclose the records to the press because access to information enables the press to exercise the right to media freedom.
Marina Machneva v. St. Petersburg City Department of the Federal Bailiff ServiceRussia2010First instanceA government agency must disclose to the applicant files of all actions taken in response to a disciplinary complaint, except for personal information of other people.
Milner v. Department of the NavyUnited States2011SupremeFOIA Exemption 2, which protects from disclosure material “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency” does not apply to military explosives data and maps because Exemption 2 covers strictly human resource matters.
Ministry of Defense v. Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of MovementIsrael2011SupremeThe Ministry of Defense improperly refused to disclose a document relating to the provision of food to the Gaza strip. While the document might have contained information relating to internal deliberations, the ministry failed to provide concrete reasons why the information was sensitive and failed to consider the possibility of partial disclosure.
Mittalsteel South Africa LTD (Formerly Iscor Ltd) v. HlatshwayoSouth Africa2006SupremeThe definition of “public bodies” subject to disclosure under PAIA includes state-owned companies that perform a government function and are under the control of the state, even if indirectly, and a formerly state-owned iron company must thus release records of meeting minutes.
Nagoya Citizen Ombudsmen v. Director of the Central Japan Economics and Industry Bureau of the Ministry of Economics and Industry Japan2001First instanceThe business information exemption to FOIA only applies where there is objective evidence indicating that disclosure would result in injury to the “rights, competitive standing, or other legitimate interest” of a business entity or individual.
Nairobi Law Monthly Company Limited v. Kenya Electricity Generating Company and OthersKenya2013First instanceA legal person does not enjoy the rights of the “citizens” to access information held by the state or by another person (private body) under Article 35(1) of the Kenyan Constitution. In order to enforce the right to request information held by another person (private body), a citizen must show that (i) the information is held by a person (not the state) and (ii) the information is required for the exercise or protection of another right. However, a journalists and media outlets may not claim that such information is required for the protection of their rights under Article 33 (freedom of expression) and Article 34 (freedom of the press), because such interpretation would blur the distinction intended by the Constitution in making the two distinct provisions in Article 35(1) and would give the media a special status that elevates it above other entities.
Naumocheva v. Khimki Town Administration (Moscow Oblast)Russia2011AppellateAccording to the Russian RTI law everyone has the right to information about the activity of the state, including information about the exact route and dimensions of a planned highway.
Navarro Gutierrez v. Lizano FaitCosta Rica2002ConstitutionalBecause information of public character is necessary to the formation of free and open public discourse guaranteed by the Constitution, the Central Bank of Costa Rica must disclose a report by the International Monetary Fund containing information on Costa Rica’s economy.
Nazarova v. Ministry of JusticeRussia2010SupremeA requester does not need to provide reasons in order to be able to have access to the government’s register of normative legal acts.
Non-Governmental Organizations Center Razgrad v. the National Revenue Agency - RazgradBulgaria2010SupremeWhen tax data of a third party is sought the respective authority must seek consent of the third party to disclose information; the burden to obtain the consent cannot be shifted to the applicant.
O’Connor v. Nova ScotiaCanada2001AppellateThe substance of Nova Scotia Provincial Cabinet deliberations with respect to government programs that are closed constitutes public information not protected by Cabinet privilege. However, programs that are not closed are protected by privilege, to the extent a decision on their continuity has not been implemented or made public and Cabinet has not waived such a privilege.
Office of Government Commerce v. Information CommissionerUnited Kingdom2008AppellateIn the absence of a public interest in preserving confidentiality, there is a presumption of public interest in the disclosure of information held by public authorities.
Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers' AssociationCanada2010SupremeFreedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter includes the right to request access to government documents. The omission of a public interest override from information disclosure exemptions relating to law enforcement and solicitor-client privilege does not violate the right to freedom of expression under the Charter. The minister’s discretional right to withhold such information has to be reasonable and in accordance with the public interest.
Osland v. Secretary to the Department of JusticeAustralia2010SupremeWhen considering the application of the public interest override, a Tribunal need not conclude that the circumstances are exceptional; rather the Tribunal must, before the power can be exercised, identify a high-threshold public interest and conclude that the evidence is capable of supporting an opinion that the public interest requires that access to the documents be granted.
Phinjo Gombu v. Tom Mitchinson, Assistant Commissioner et al.Canada2002AppellateRefusal to disclose information about campaign contributions, including names, addresses and phone numbers of contributors, in electronic format was unreasonable given the importance of furthering the democratic process through public scrutiny and the minimal intrusion on privacy.
President of the Republic of South Africa. v. M & G Media Ltd.South Africa2010SupremeUnder the South African Bill of Rights and the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000, conclusory affidavits provided by the President to justify the secrecy of a report of the 2002 Zimbabwe elections prepared by two judges for President Mbeki were insufficient to justify non-disclosure.
Public & Private Development Centre v. Power Holding Company of Nigeria & the Honorable Attorney-General of the FederationNigeria2013First instanceDisclosure of information about an already-awarded contract —one that is no longer in the stages of negotiations — does not interfere with the rights of the third party contractor.
Qoboshiyane NO v. Avusa Publishing Eastern Cape (Pty) Ltd.South Africa2012AppellateIf information falls under one of the exemptions from disclosure under PAIA, it must nevertheless be released if an overriding public interest in disclosure exists. In a case of maladministration of municipal funds, the public interest overrides any harm that may result from disclosure and disclosure is mandated.
Rob Evans v. Information CommissionerUnited Kingdom2012AppellateAdvocacy correspondence between the heir to the throne and government ministers does not fall within constitutional convention and does not deserve special protection; correspondence in which interests of charitable enterprises are promoted concerns matters affecting public policy and the public purse and thus there is a strong public interest in its disclosure that in this case outweighs the interests in secrecy.
Rosen Bosev (Capital Weekly) v. Director of the Government Information ServiceBulgaria2007First instanceWhen a member of the public requests access to an agreement between a government agency and a third party, the government agency is required to seek consent of the third party to disclose the information; mere assertion that disclosure would harm commercial interests does not suffice.
S.P. Gupta v. President of IndiaIndia1981SupremeNon-disclosure of information is justifiable only if disclosure would be injurious to the public interest, and injury to the reputation of a public official should not be a consideration.
SA Airlink (PTY) Limited v. Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks AgencySouth Africa2012AppellateBurden to justify a refusal to disclose information rests on a public body, not the requester. Parties relying on harm to third party interests to justify refusals must show that these harms are “not simply possible, but probable”. A confidentiality clause cannot shield a contract of a state body with a third party from disclosure.
Scobin v. Federal Agency for Technical Regulation and MetrologyRussia2006First instanceThe responsible agency must publish national consumer product standards on its official website and may not charge fees for hard copies of the documents.
Shalit v. PeresIsrael1990SupremeCoalition agreements between parliamentary factions, concluded in anticipation of the formation of a government and dealing with the functions of the legislative or executive authorities ought to be published.
SNC Lavalin Inc. v. Canada (Canadian International Development Agency)Canada2007AppellateRecords of auditor’s working papers regarding a project involving Canadian International Development Agency and a private corporation do not constitute “confidential third party information” and “personal information”.
Sophie In’t Veld v. European CommissionEuropean Union2013International / EUA certain level of discretion is justified when it comes to disclosure of information regarding the negotiation of international agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), so as to allow mutual trust between negotiators and the development of a free and effective discussion. Since, in the European Union, conducting such negotiations falls in the domain of the executive, public participation in the process is necessarily restricted. Overriding public interest in disclosure does not apply to the mandatory exceptions under Article 4(1) of Regulation No 1049/2001.
South Lanarkshire Council v. Scottish Information CommissionerUnited Kingdom2013SupremeDecision of the Scottish Information Commissioner to request disclosure of information regarding pay scales of Council employees is in conformity with Data Protection Act. It is necessary and proportional for the legitimate aim of the applicant.
State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain India1975SupremeRules of evidence that prevent disclosure of certain government documents in court proceedings may be overridden if the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in keeping documents secret.
Sweden and Turco v. Council of the European Union, Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom, and Commission of the European CommunitiesEuropean Union2008International / EUThe Court annulled the decision of the Council that refused access to a document containing the opinion of the Council's legal service on a proposal for a directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of applicants for asylum in Member States.
Sweden v. European Commission and MyTravel Group Plc.European Union2011International / EUWhere an EU institution refuses to provide access to a document, it is under a duty to explain how access to that document might actually and specifically undermine the interest protected by the exception in Regulation 1049/2001 upon which the institution relies.. The requirements for protecting the decision-making process are less acute when the process is closed, rather than ongoing.
Társaság A Szabadságjogokért (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) v. HungaryHungary2009International / ECHRSocial watchdogs and others have an Article 10 right to access state-held information on a matter of public importance in order to enable free public debate on such matters. The privacy rights of public figures cannot prevail over the right of access in such circumstances.
Thalappalam Ser. Coop. Bank Ltd. and others v. state of Kerala and othersIndia2013SupremeCo-operative Society registered under the Kerala Co-operative Societies Act is not bound by right to information act to provide information sought by a citizen and that the society does not fall within the definition of “public authority.”
The CPIO, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal & Anr.India2009AppellateAsset declarations of Supreme Court judges should be disclosed if there is public interest in disclosure; where the interest is shown, the authority should consult the judge concerned and balance the interest in disclosure against privacy concerns.
The Information Commissioner of Canada v. The Executive Director of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board and NAV CANADACanada2006AppellateAir Traffic Control communications do not fall under the financial, commercial, scientific or technical information exemption because they do not constitute commercial or technical information. They are also not protected under the Privacy Act since communications themselves are not personal information.
The Prosecution in the trial of Ríos Montt v. Ministry of National DefenseGuatemala2008ConstitutionalThe public authority must release military operational plans from the past in the prosecution of a former military leader because the plans do not constitute “state secrets” and thus are not protected from disclosure under the exemption in Article 30 of the Constitution.
Toktakunov v. KyrgyzstanKyrgyzstan2011International / UNThe right to information held by public bodies is grounded within the right to freedom of expression; and Kyrgyzstan violated this right by not disclosing information concerning death sentences pursuant to secret bylaws.
Transnet Ltd. and Another v. SA Metal Machinery Co (PTY) Ltd.South Africa2005SupremeParties relying on harm to third party interests to justify refusals must show that these harms are "not simply possible, but probable". A confidentiality clause cannot shield a contract of a state company with a third party from disclosure. Requesters need not show legitimate reasons for requesting information.
Trustees For the Time Being of the Biowatch Trust v. Registrar Genetic Resources and OthersSouth Africa2005AppellateWhen denying a request for information about genetically modified corps, the burden of proof lies with the government agency. If the governmental agency is of opinion that information request is not sufficiently specific, it must assist the requester in the process.
UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition v. Ministry of DefenseUnited Kingdom2011AppellateInformation concerning detention and interrogation policies is of high public interest and should be disclosed; the public interest in access to diplomatic assurances that detainees would not be tortured outweighs any harm that might flow from disclosure; information concerning the Special Forces and legally privileged communications are exempt; and the personal data exemption is not implicated in a request for non-identifying statistical details.
Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Another v. Union of India and AnotherIndia2003SupremeVoters have a fundamental right to know relevant qualifications of candidates for office, including information about their income and assets. Accordingly, a section of a law stating that candidates could not be compelled to disclose any information about themselves other than their criminal records was unconstitutional.
Union of India (UOI) v. Respondent: Association for Democratic Reforms and Another; with People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Another v. Union of India (UOI) and AnotherIndia2002SupremeCitizens have a right to know about public functionaries and candidates for office, including their assets and criminal and educational backgrounds, which right is derived from the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.
Union of India v. Namit Sharma; State of Rajasthan & Anr v. Namit SharmaIndia2013SupremeRecalling key components of an earlier judgment reading into the Right to Information Act a requirement that appointees to the Information Commission possess judicial qualifications, the Supreme Court of India concluded that it was ultimately for Parliament to decide whether such a requirement was appropriate.
Uzoegwu F.O.C. Esq v. Central Bank of Nigeria & Attorney-General of the FederationNigeria2012First instanceThe salaries of high-level officials at the Central Bank of Nigeria are not personal information and should be disclosed under the FOI Act.
Van Huyssteen and Others NNO v. Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and OthersSouth Africa1996First instanceA constitutional provision (retained in the current constitution) that every person has a right to information that is “required” for the exercise or protection of any of his or her rights should be interpreted to mean “reasonably required”.
Videocable Rivera S.A. and Others v. Communications Services Regulatory UnitUruguay2013SupremeUnder the Law on Right of Access to Public Information (ATI law), disclosure by the Communications Services Regulatory Unit of the number of subscribers to a television company’s services does not violate the constitutional right to privacy.
Voronin v. Kirovsky District Administration of St. Petersburg Russia2010First instanceMembers of the public and media have the right to attend meetings of “collegial” public bodies (as defined in Russia’s RTI law) as a way to access information about the activities of these bodies.
Ward of Songpa, Seoul Metropolitan City v. Election Commission of Seoul Metropolitan CitySouth Korea2005First instanceLocal government officials are not entitled to request public information under the access to information law in their official capacity. As such, they do not qualify as "people" entitled to access to government information under the law.
Youth Initiative for Human Rights v. SerbiaSerbia2013International / ECHRThe freedom to receive information embraces a general right of access to information. Article 10 of the Convention includes the right of access to data held by an intelligence agency. A public body cannot evade requests for information by simply declaring that it does not hold the information.
Yurij I. Vdovin v. Federal Executive AuthoritiesRussia2005First instanceFederal executive authorities must publish certain information, specified in a government decree, on the Internet.
Zárate v. Federal Electoral InstituteMexico2004SupremeThe right to receive information about organization, work, financial resources and statutes of political parties is an element of the right to information, which, in turn, is a basis for the free exercise of other fundamental rights. Authorities have to guarantee access to financial information of political parties, including monthly salaries and other benefits of the party leaders.
Zolotonosov v. Interdepartmental Commission for the Protection of State Secrets under the President of the Russian FederationRussia2011First instanceRegulations that set forth procedures for declassifying documents and for extending terms of classification affect the rights of the general public and must therefore be publicly available.