Madrid, 28 September 2020– On the occasion of International Access to Information Day, the pro-transparency organisation Access Info Europe is calling on the governments of the European region to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, which will come into force on 1 December 2020, and to commit to strengthening this fundamental right.
“We urgently need to learn the lessons of 2020, which is that information saves lives, and there is a huge public demand to be informed. We also learned that our national transparency regimes are not strong enough: Across Europe, we have seen access to information laws suspended, and insufficient proactive publication of crucial data on health, decision making, spending and public procurement,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.
Access Info reports that during 2020, countries which are signatories to the Convention and which recognise a fundamental right to information, ranging from Finland and Sweden in northern Europe to Macedonia and Montenegro in the south, continued to process requests for information.
In other countries, which do not fully recognise this fundamental right, such as Austria, France, Greece, Italy, and Spain, this essential right was suspended as part of emergency decrees. This made the job of journalists and civil society organisations harder, and risked reducing the flow of essential information to the public.
“In normal times, access to information enables citizens to participate in decision making, to hold governments accountable, and to improve the quality of democracy. In a pandemic, information saves lives, and the right to information needs defending more than ever,” explained Darbishire. “Looking to the future, the solution is to strengthen national access to information laws, and to bring them into line with the minimum standards of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents.”
|Countries which have ratified the Convention||Countries which have signed the Convention||Countries yet to sign/ratify the convention|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina
International Access to Information Day
28 September was proclaimed as the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) by the 74th United Nations General Assembly in 2019. It had already been recognised by UNESCO in 2015, and has been celebrated by civil society since 2002, when Right to Know Day was first established in Sofia (Bulgaria), during the foundational meeting of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network FOIAnet.
Access to information has been recognised as a fundamental right by multiple international human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. There are over 70 countries globally with constitutional provisions on this right, including many European countries. The European Union also recognises a fundamental right of European citizens and residents to its documents.
Don’t miss “Access to Information and Openness”, Open Talks webinar organised by UNESCO and Access Info Europe, with speakers from Article 19, the Freedom of Information Centre of Armenia, the Open Data Charter and Transparency International. Information and registration here!