2 in 15 governments reply to global FOI test

A recent world-wide Freedom of Information (FOI) experiment made by the Associated Press (AP) shows the appalling state that governments’ transparency is in, with only 2 in 15 responding to the request in full and in due time.

The experiment began in January 2010 and asked for evidence of terrorism instances and how they were dealt with. Over 100 AP reporters filled requests world-wide asking for the following:

  • ·         evidence of arrests and convictions made to counter terrorism over the past decade.
  • ·         evidence of detainment, with no arrest, on terrorism accounts.
  • ·         evidence to show the status of convictions made for terrorism related crimes over the past decade and details regarding the points of law used for this purpose.
  • ·         the nationality of those arrested under terrorism accounts.
  • ·         records of names, dates and circumstances for all terrorism related arrests made over the past decade.
  • ·         any audits and research of countering-terrorism made over the past decade.

Out of the 105 countries that are covered to some extend by freedom of information laws and were thus asked to respond to the above, only 14 gave useful answers in the required time frame, with a further 38 replying partially. However, the whole picture is not that straightforward. You can check AP’s interactive map division of type of responses received along with expert analysis here.

According to the AP reporter drawing on the results of this test, new-born democracies are more responsive than older and more established. He writes: “Newer democracies were in general more responsive than some developed ones. Guatemala confirmed the AP request in 72 hours and sent all documents in 10 days. Turkey sent spreadsheets and data within seven days. Mexico posted responses on the Web. By comparison, Canada asked for a 200-day extension. The FBI in the United States responded six months late with a single sheet with four dates, two words and a large section blanket. Austria never responded at all.”  

The AP is now looking for its next subject to investigate at a global level. You can contribute to their ideas board on their Facebook page.

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