We bring together information on the legal frameworks for the right to information from more than 100 countries.
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Central, State and Local Governments

last modified Sep 13, 2013 10:15 PM

Overview

Most ATI laws adopted by countries in the past decade – other than countries with federal systems – apply at a minimum to “government and administration at the national, regional or local level.” This language is included in Article 1 of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents.

The laws of 25 of 26 European countries surveyed – all except Germany – apply to all three of these levels: Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Countries with Federal Systems

Most RTI laws of countries with federal systems or that grant considerable autonomy to sub-national government entities – including Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Mexico and the United States – apply only to the federal (central) government. However, the RTI law of a few countries with federal systems or autonomous regions are applicable to all levels of government, most notably, India, Portugal and the United Kingdom (not including Scotland, which opted to enact its own FOIA and establish its own Information Commissioner). Moreover, the federal laws of Austria and Mexico expressly require the state and local governments to adopt their own laws; this requirement was reinforced in Mexico by a constitutional amendment in 2007. Most states (or provinces) have adopted laws that apply to local as well as state agencies even in countries where not required to do so (e.g. Australia, Canada, Germany, the United States). What follows is more information about RTI laws in countries with federal systems.

Archive

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

Related cases

 

Relevant Cases

Title:Country:Year:Court / Arbiter:
Cardenas v. Mayor of Huamanga Peru 2011 Appellate The 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.
City of Ottawa v. Ontario Canada 2010 Appellate The 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.
In re the Constitutionality of Provisions on Record Keeping of Governmental Sessions Hungary 2006 Constitutional The 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.
Kline v. Official Secretary to the Governor General Australia 2013 Supreme Section 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.
Lachezar Lisicov (Desant daily) v. the President of Bulgaria Bulgaria 2010 First instance The 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. Phoenix United States 2009 Supreme City was obliged to disclose metadata (electronic information concerning the history of an electronic document) pursuant to state freedom of information law.
Naumocheva v. Khimki Town Administration (Moscow Oblast) Russia 2011 Appellate According 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.
O’Connor v. Nova Scotia Canada 2001 Appellate The 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.
Phinjo Gombu v. Tom Mitchinson, Assistant Commissioner et al. Canada 2002 Appellate Refusal 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 Africa 2010 Supreme Under 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.
Rob Evans v. Information Commissioner United Kingdom 2012 Appellate Advocacy 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.
The Prosecution in the trial of Ríos Montt v. Ministry of National Defense Guatemala 2008 Constitutional The 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.