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National Security Archive Marks International Right to Know Day

Commends State Department for Monitoring Access
to Information in Human Rights Reports

Washington, D.C., September 28, 2005 - Marking International Right to Know Day, the National Security Archive commended the Department of State for including access to government information as one factor evaluated in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Transparency and information are essential to allow people to scrutinize and debate the actions of their government, combat corruption, and promote democracy. In its open letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Archive also requested that the Department include access to information as an independent category in the reports, to increase the prominence and recognition of this fundamental human right department-wide.

  • Read news highlights from the past year and see what is going on around the world to commemorate the 3rd Annual International Right to Know Day.
  • Examples of country reports

    The following are examples where the Department of State has commented on access to information within its 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices


    “There was no law providing for public access to government information. Instead, the Official Secrets Act protected government officials from scrutiny, typically in the name of national security.”


    “While freedom of information laws provide for public access to government information, there were restrictions to such access in practice. The NGO Access to Information Program reported approximately 140 cases where government institutions denied access to information throughout the year.”


    “The Freedom of Information law allows citizens to request and receive documents from the Government that were considered to be in the public domain; however, the rules governing access to the information remained unclear.”


    “Pursuant to the Transparency and Access to Public Information Law, most Ministries and central offices provided key information on their web pages, and, in some offices, information requests were expedited. However, implementation of the law was incomplete, particularly in rural areas. In addition, there was a widespread lack of awareness of the law, and relatively few citizens understood and exercised their right to information. The Ombudsman's office made efforts to promote citizen awareness of transparency rights and to encourage regional governments to adopt transparency practices. In July, the Ombudsman's office issued its annual report that ranked regional governments in terms of transparency, citizen access to information, clear financial accounting, and ability to work with different social actors.”


    “The Constitution and the 1997 Official Information Act both provide access to public information. If a government agency denies a citizen's request for information, a petition may be made to the Official Information Commission. From January to July, 124 petitions and 103 appeals were made. Approximately 99 percent of the petitions were approved. Requests for public information may be denied for reasons of national security, law enforcement, and public safety.”

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