Governments urged to be more proactive about making information public

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TRANSPARENCY and open government is more important than ever in what has been called a ‘post truth’ age of information rights.

At a recent meeting for national and regional Freedom of Information Commissioners and Ombudsmen held in Berlin, delegates – including Emma Martins, head of the Channel Island Data Protection regulator – were told about the importance of government being more proactive about making information public.

Much of the discussion during the meeting centred on government taking the initiative and being more proactive about making information public. Graham Smith from the EU Ombudsman talked about the work of his office in encouraging wider access and the easier exercising of rights together with the promotion of good administrative practices, where decisions are taken as openly and as close to the citizen as possible.

Attending in her capacity as Jersey’s Information Commissioner charged with regulation of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011, Mrs Martins said: ‘Openness contributes to the strengthening of principles of democracy and respect for fundamental rights, and the right of access to documents is only one small part of accountability and showing transparency.

‘Many jurisdictions across Europe have adopted Freedom of Information legislation, with Jersey implementing its own Law in 2015. The Bailiwick of Guernsey does not have legislation in place, however, does have a code of practice for access to government information, underpinned by the core principles of a presumption of disclosure; a corporate approach; a culture of openness; proactive publication; and effective records management.

‘The overarching message arising from the meeting was that a strong information access regime can only be fully effective if supported by mediators acting between the state and its citizens, and in a resolution agreed by the participants, governments have been called upon to enforce freedom of information and strengthen those charged with oversight of those laws.’

The Berlin meeting was the first of this group with the main purpose being to provide a forum for international cooperation between regulatory authorities and Ombudsmen across Europe and the Crown Dependencies.

The full resolution can be found by clicking on the link below. For further information, please contact the Office of the Information Commissioner at enquiries@dataci.org.

2017 Resolution