World’s First Rating of Right to Information: 89 Countries Ranked

28 September 2011 – On International Right to Know Day, Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy launched the first detailed analysis of the legal framework for the right to information (RTI) in 89 countries around the world.

The findings of the RTI Rating show that there is a significant variety in the quality of the legal framework, with scores out of a maximum possible 150 ranging from 39 (Austria, one of 30 countries currently pending final review by national experts) to 135 (Serbia).

The current national scores can be found here: file_doc odf2odt-16x16 file_pdf

The full details, maps, methodology, and graphics can be found on the dedicated website

The RTI Rating is based on 61 Indicators drawn from a wide range of international standards on the right to information, feedback from an International Advisory Council of renowned experts on the right to information, and comparative study of numerous right to information and related laws from around the world.

Some of the key findings:

» The top 20 countries with scores over 100 tend to be younger laws which reflect the progress made in international standard setting on this right in the past 20 years: with the exception of Finland (a score of 105 for a legal framework which includes a law adopted in 1951) the average age of the laws in the top 20 countries is just 5 years. These laws tend to have much stronger oversight, enforcement and promotion, which is often necessary in new or transitional democracies.

» Europe overall accounts for 15 of the bottom 20, primarily the older European laws where typical weaknesses were the limited scope (the right not applying to the legislative or judicial branch or private bodies performing public functions), over-broad exceptions regimes, shortcomings in oversight and appeals mechanisms, and lack of legal requirements to promote awareness of the public’s right of access to information.

For some of the younger laws that scored highest, it may be too early to conclude how these laws will work in practice, but reports on implementation in some of the top countries, including Mexico, India, and Slovenia, support the conclusion that strong laws can lead to strong protections for the public’s right to know.

That said, it is evident that the low scores for some northern European countries such as Sweden and Norway, do not fully reflect the culture of transparency in practice, whereas in countries like Azerbaijan, Nepal and Ethiopia, strong laws on paper do not translate into fully open societies.

“Testing of levels of transparency in practice is essential to have a full picture,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe. “Adopting a law is only a first step to transparency; without accurate measures of access to information in practice, governments can participate in ‘transparency washing’ and claim greater respect for this fundamental human right than is in fact the case.