What are you campaigning for – why does it matter to your community? What information did you ask for under FOI? What did they say? (and who did you ask) Why was that answer useful/wrong? What is the website address for your project?
Reviewing the Act in 2012, the Justice Committee concluded that Freedom of Information provides “a significant enhancement of our democracy”. FOI has delivered many improvements at local and national level over the 10 years it has been in effect.
The FOI Commission has finally published a public call for evidence, exclusively focused on restricting Freedom of Information – and the discussion is framed in a way that is deliberately discouraging to individuals; full of legalese and statistics.
Freedom of Information is a vital tool for holding those in authority to account. The power that FOI affords citizens is under threat, but you can help defend it if you act now.
Precisely which of your requests does the Government now want to hide?
What’s going on?
Still stinging from having its ‘veto’ overturned by the Supreme Court in a couple of embarrassing cases, the Government – which claims to be “the most open in the world” – wants to limit Freedom of Information, awarding itself and other authorities more powers of secrecy.
New exemptions proposed in the Terms of Reference for the supposedly “independent” FOI Commission – a hand-picked panel consisting of politicians and bureaucrats, some of whom have publicly stated their hostility to FOI – would seriously restrict your right to know.
And fees proposed in a recent consultation affecting FOI appeals, could mean charges of up to £600 to get information released.
How you can help Everyone who has ever made a successful Freedom of Information request knows the essential information that the Act can provide. Many who have received a negative FOI response will know how the existing exemptions can already be applied in (over)broad and idiosyncratic ways. The Government claims the current exemptions in the Act are too narrow. It wants to take the current broad justifications that allow it and other authorities to say “no”, and widen them even further. #saveFOI is assembling a dossier (mass collection) of examples of Freedom of Information requests which led to positive changes in the world around you – improvements the Government disregards and appears happy to sacrifice. We’re also collecting examples of broad and eccentric interpretations of the exemptions currently permitted under the Act. The Government and its officials already have plenty of excuses to hide behind; they don’t need more. They’re only pretending those excuses can’t and aren’t already being used widely and excessively. We need your FOI experience What did you ask for? What did you get? And what happened next, as a result? We need you to write your account on a single side of A4 – we’ve provided a template – so we can collect the many, many FOI stories together to provide overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of the current Act, and the use (and misuse) of the very real restrictions that already exist. The ‘Coverup Commission’ is almost certain to propose new rules; its restrictive Terms of Reference and the separate fees consultation make it clear what these are likely to be. The Commission must be made to justify the existing requests it would have preferred not to answer. And if it’s going to reopen exemptions, it must pay heed to the way the current exemptions are used in practice, up and down the country. This is not about what’s reasonable – for there are reasonable exemptions – this is about the unreasonable… the bureaucratic… the petty… and the self-interested. To find out how to send us your FOI story, go here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
And once you’ve made your submission – or even if you don’t have the time for that – please do Tweet your support and your own relevant FOI stories using the #saveFOI hashtag. Post your FOI story on your blog, your website and your social networks. Spread the word!