Though you may not read or hear much about International Right to Know Day on September 28, 2010, the astounding fact is that NGO’s, press groups and others in over forty nations worldwide will be taking a moment to celebrate the essential, if implicit, human right. Since its inception in 2002 the goal of RTK Day has been to raise global awareness of individuals’ right to access government information and to promote access to information as a fundamental human right.
The underlying principles echoed throughout the celebration of RTK Day are that public interest takes precedence over secrecy and that public bodies play a proactive role as vehicles of public access. Though transparency has become a buzz word at every level of government, organizations and advocates who are truly concerned might well take a collective deep breath and review the reality. For advocates laboring in the local vineyard there is strength to be found in the fact that committed colleagues in a host of nations are making waves and even progress. While Canada celebrates International RTK – and the right itself – with great gusto, other nations ranging from Bulgaria to China to Nigeria believe, work and are taking concrete steps to promote the right to know as a basic human right.
One example of work in progress is the extensive draft report currently being circulated for discussion throughout Europe. Access Info Europe and the Open Knowledge Foundation, in collaboration with Open Society Institute Information Program, are holding a “public consultation” on open government data and the right of access to information based on that document that bears the working title Beyond Access. The draft report assesses the current status of open government data and the right to reuse, offering a current and inclusive review of movements, examples and comments on future directions. It’s worth a look.
FOI Advocates offers an excellent mix of ideas of ways that individuals and organizations of virtually every stripe can celebrate RTK Day 2010 – it’s specific, thought-generating and very useful. It’s not too late to turn out a letter to the editor, an exhibit or a quick self-assessment of what your or your organization is doing to promote – or inhibit – access.