UK public figures complain about governmental bodies obstructing journalists’ access to information



Wed, 13 Apr 2022 - 02:19 GMT


Wed, 13 Apr 2022 - 02:19 GMT

The Guardian logo

The Guardian logo

CAIRO – 13 April 2022: Over 100 UK journalists, politicians, and campaigners signed an open letter earlier this week to the new information commissioner, complaining that governmental bodies obstruct journalists’ access to information, The Guardian reported.


Such access is a right granted by the country’s freedom of information (FoI) laws, which is in practice being undermined, as indicated by the letter.


The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the entity in charge of reviewing the complaints of the public in case they are denied access to information they are allowed to acquire by law. In such cases, the ICO can order those governmental bodies to provide the necessary information.


However, even the role of the ICO does not seem to be efficient, so as journalists and researchers say that their complaints may take up to a whole year to be processed.


The signatories include prominent figures such as the editor in chiefs of The Guardian, the Observer, former Brexit Secretary David Davis, former Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas, and Shadow Solicitor General Andy Slaughter.


The Editor-in-Chief of openDemocracy, which coordinated the signing of the letter, Peter Geoghegan said, as quoted by The Guardian, "As the British public is still being kept in the dark over Partygate, the importance of transparency has rarely been more obvious."


Geoghegan was referring to the incident where UK Prime Minister had a party with staff at 10 Downing Street during COVID-19 shutdown.


In a similar incident, a judge accused in 2021 the Cabinet Office of having "misled" a tribunal about the operation of what is called Clearing House, which is an alleged blacklisting system for FoI requests from journalists.


That is why the open letter called for allocating more resources to the processing of FoI complaints, holding accountable governmental bodies that do not abide by FoI laws, and "stronger enforcement protocols for government bodies that repeatedly flout the law."


The signatories further recommended the expansion of FoI to include private companies that provide public services.


Katharine Viner, The Guardian's editor-in-chief, commented on the move saying, "Journalism in the public interest often depends on freedom of information laws, which help the public understand the decisions made by the authorities made by the authorities. Such laws are essential to a well-functioning democracy."



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