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

Overview

  • Many countries include in their constitutions a general principle guaranteeing equality (or at least non-discrimination) in the application of the law. Thus, arguably, in such countries it is not necessary to include a provision in the FOI law that specifies that there should be no discrimination on the basis of the requestor.
  • In many countries – including Australia, Canada, Hungary, Ireland, South Africa, and the United States -- reasons for a request may not be demanded. Consequently it should not be possible to discriminate between requesters who want to use the information for certain campaigns (e.g. the Greenpeace case) or for their own personal purposes.
  • In some countries (e.g. Uganda), the law goes further and specifically prohibits officials from taking their belief as to the manner in which the information will be used into account.
  • In India and Mexico, requests may be anonymous, which leads to the fact that discrimination is not possible.
  • At the same time, in some countries – e.g., the Netherlands and seemingly New Zealand - the identity of the requester may be taken into account, either by law or implicitly, and 'difficult' requesters may be treated differently.
  • Different countries' approaches also vary as to whether citizens and non-citizens are granted the right to information (see table).

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Archive

You will find detailed country information that is not regularly updated in our Archive.

Relevant cases

 

Relevant Cases

Title:Country:Year:Court / Arbiter:
Claase v. Information Officer of South African Airways South Africa 2006 Appellate A 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.
Empresa Folha da Manhã S/A v. the President of the House of Representatives Brazil 2009 Supreme The 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 Lanka Sri Lanka 2005 Supreme Refusal 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.
Forests Survey Inspection Request Case [Petitioner v. Supervisor of County of Ichon] South Korea 1989 Constitutional Restriction 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.
Greenwatch (U) Ltd v. Attorney General of Uganda and Uganda Electricity Transmission Co.Ltd Uganda 2002 First instance A power compay 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.
Han v. Korean Broadcasting System South Korea 2008 Appellate Korean 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.
Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission Philippines 1987 Supreme The 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 Africa 2010 Appellate A 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.
Nairobi Law Monthly Company Limited v. Kenya Electricity Generating Company and Others Kenya 2013 First instance A 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.
Nazarova v. Ministry of Justice Russia 2010 Supreme A requester does not need to provide reasons in order to be able to have access to the government’s register of normative legal acts.
Petitioner v. Procuraduria General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor) Mexico 2010 Pursuant 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. Procuraduría General de la Republica (Public Prosecutor) Mexico 2009 Appellate Pursuant 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. Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Secretary of National Defense) Mexico 2007 Appellate The 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.
Sir Dawda K Jawara v. The Gambia Gambia 2000 Given 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.
Társaság A Szabadságjogokért (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) v. Hungary Hungary 2009 International / ECHR Social 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.
Toktakunov v. Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 2011 International / UN The 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.
UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition v. Ministry of Defense United Kingdom 2011 Appellate Information 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.
Voronin v. Kirovsky District Administration of St. Petersburg Russia 2010 First instance Members 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 City South Korea 2005 First instance Local 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.