14 February, 2007

Freedom of Inf.: Guest Editorial 5

Freedom of Information.

The right to access information held by public bodies, often referred to as ‘freedom of information’, is a fundamental human right recognised in international law. It is crucial as a right in its own regard as well as central to the functioning of democracy and the enforcement of other rights. As early as 1946, the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the free circulation of information in its broadest sense, stating:

“Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and ... the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the UN is consecrated”.

The right to freedom of information was subsequently legally guaranteed as part of the wider right to freedom of expression, under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted in 1966.

Article 19(2) of the ICCPR, an international treaty binding on Anguilla as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, states:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

Anyone who has ever tried to get information out of any Anguillian civil servant knows that almost all information held by a government department is secret. Any bad news is seen as likely to spook the investor and chase away the tourist dollar. That attitude is against the law, but we need a law to protect our rights. Our government press officer gives no press conferences, and gives out no information. Radio Anguilla broadcasts no news other than trip reports and conference highlights. The newspapers publish only competitions and advertorials.

As a comparison, see the discussion in Cayman Islands on the Cayman Islands Forum.

Particularly interesting is the commentary on the draft Cayman Islands' law.

The question then becomes, “Why is no one in Anguilla pressing for a law to give citizens the right to access to information in Anguilla?” Are we going to keep putting up with the secrecy and cover ups that characterize so much of Anguilla’s public life?

1 comment:

  1. Anguilla is the kind of place where Tim Hodge can claim that Social Security is a model of transparency and good governance and nobody even laughs.


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