It’s been ten years since the Freedom of Information Act came into force and the government currently has an Independent Commission reviewing it.
I share the fears of many journalists that the commission might lay the groundwork for the government adding new restrictions on the release of information, strengthening the ministerial veto and adding charges for requests.
Anticipating this threat, Press Gazette and others have launched a petition calling on the government not to weaken the FOI Act.
Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford said:
The FOI commission seems intent on seriously weakening the act dealing a blow to the public’s right to know. This is not about saving money, or reducing the ‘burden’ on local authorities as has been suggested. It is about turning the clock back and putting us back in the dark. That’s why Press Gazette will be fighting against what appears to be a government plot to water down FoI.
Everyone who believes that we have a right to know what public bodies do in our name, and with our money, should sign the petition.
Lest we forget, Tony Blair said that bringing in the Freedom of Information Act was one of his biggest regrets. Heroic FOI campaigner Maurice Frankel wrote an excellent piece dissecting Blair’s thinking which is well-worth reading.