Today, more than 90 countries have laws that require officials to turn over public records, and the number continues to grow each year. And even in countries with no laws specifying whether records should be made available, it never hurts to ask.
Below are a few of the best resources for journalists seeking to file records requests in countries with laws governing access to information.
Freedominfo.org links to county-specific laws, stories and resources.
Right2Info links to country-specific resources.
Africa Freedom of Information Centre is one of the only Africa-wide resources on a continent with few laws governing access to information.
Australia: Right2Know (provides an automated request platform as well as links to the foia offices for more than 300 agencies. The Attorney General provides a guide to filing records request as well as a log of previous disclosures.
Bangladesh: The Information Commission is a government site that provides information on how to file a request. You will need to cut and paste into Google Translate, as the text does not appear in the English version. The RTI Resource Centre provides resources for those seeking to file a records request with federal agencies.
China: Freedom of Information in China provides a clear list of items subject to open records requests on the federal regional and local level.
India: Right To Information: A Citizen Gateway is the Indian government portal for its successful RTI. Central Information Commission is the federal agency that hears complaints of denial to records requests. It provides a linked list of state-level agencies (look for “Links to State Information Commissions” on the left scrollbar).
Japan: Citizens’ Center for Information Disclosure helps those interested in filing requests. The site does not lend itself to language translation, but contact information is available at the bottom of the home page.
Ask the EU assists those who want to request information from the EU. You must register, but there is no charge assisted with records requests.
Wobbing Europe aims to support journalists in using FOI laws through training, educating, networking, and strengthening legislation and access.
Bosnia: The Center for Free Access to Information provides free assistance to those who want to request information from government authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ireland: Freedom of Information Law is a project of University College. It provides links to the FOIA offices of a number of regional and federal agencies. Some links are broken, though the majority are available, including:
- Department of Defense
- Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
- Department of Finance
- Department of Health
Kosovo: Informata Zyrtare provides an automated request platform as well as links to the FOI offices for federal agencies.
Russia: Freedom of Information Foundation fights for access to information, and is one of the best resources we’ve found when seeking assistance on obtaining documents in Russia.
Spain: Although Spain is one of the few Western European states without an FOI law, TuDerechoaSaber provides an automated request platform to assist those who want to request information from Spanish authorities.
Switzerland: The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner is the federal agency taxed with facilitating with records requests to federal agencies.
United Kingdom: What Do They Know? provides an automated request platform to assist those who want to request information from the UK. You must register, but there is no charge assisted with records requests. The Scottish Government also fields an FOI office for requesters.
Brazil: Fórum de Direito de Acesso a Informações Públicas provides a simple guide and form letter for filing records requests with government agencies.
Cayman Islands: There is an Information Commissioner’s Office available to the public.
Chile: Acceso Inteligente provides an automated request platform. You must register, but there is no charge associated with records requests. Pro Acceso Fundación provides a simple guide to filing records requests with government agencies.
Jamaica: Access to Information Unit is a government agency that processes records requests. Forms are provided along the left rail.
Mexico: Sistema Infomex is an autonomous agency established to facilitate an online request system. You must register, but there is no charge associated with the initial records requests. The site also provides links to state and municipal governments.
Uruguay: Que Sabes? provides an automated request platform based on the UK model. You must register, but there is no charge associated with the initial records requests.
MIDDLE EAST/NEAR EAST/CAUCASUS
Georgia: Institute for Development of Freedom of Information provides a simple guide to filing a request with government authorities as well as a database of previously requested documents.
The National Archive provides a simple primer for how to file a federal request. They aloe not that if you’re a journalist you can apply for a fee waiver. FOIA requests can be made by anyone, regardless if you are a U.S. citizen.
FOIA.GOV provides direct links to the FOIA offices for major federal agencies.
The Treasury Board of Canada is responsible for government-wide administration of the country’s federal Access to Information Act. There are also offices at the provincial and territorial level:
- The province of Alberta
- The province of British Columbia
- The province of Manitoba
- The province of Newfoundland Labrador
- The province of New Brunswick
- The province of Nova Scotia
- The province of Ontario
- The province of Québec
- The province of Saskatchewan
- The territory of Yukon
Kate Willson is news advisor in the Student Media Department at Oregon State University, Corvalis, and a consultant to the Global Investigative Journalism Network. This guide is part of a series of Resources pages on gijn.org. Have an addition? Send it to hello(at)gijn.org.