"Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it. Once I appreciated the full enormity of the blunder, I used to say - more than a little unfairly - to any civil servant who would listen: Where was Sir Humphrey when I needed him? We had legislated in the first throes of power. How could you, knowing what you know have allowed us to do such a thing so utterly undermining of sensible government?"
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Browsing bills, bill and veto jackets and state contracts is not exactly my idea of a good time but it has its use, just ask the people of the State of New York where SunlightNY.com is promoting access, reform and accountability in both English and Spanish. Created largely by the Office of the Attorney General and Blair Horner, a leading advocate for government transparency who was on loan to the office from the New York Public Interest Research Group, SunlightNY.com is an innovative approach to keeping the public engaged in government. An approach that’s seems to have no equal in the US.
- United States
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Transparancy & Accoutnability Project Minnesota
- Texas Transparency
- state contracts
- Project Sunlight
- NYS Attorney General
- New York State Public Interest Research Group
- elected officials
- digitial democracy
- developing world
- campaign finance
- Blair Horner
Global Voices, a website that aggregates news and information from an international community of bloggers, recently posted an obituary entitled “Philippines: Congress Fails to Pass Freedom of Information Bill.” In my mind, this failed reform is but a lost battle in the larger war waged between patronage politics and good governance. Winning the war entails much more than enacting a new law; it requires transforming the country’s political culture from one dominated by a web of patronage relationships to one characterized by transparency, accountability, and participation.
I was in Manila during the bill’s final days, and monitored the news with deep interest as a coalition of local and international advocates launched a public campaign in support of the bill’s ratification. On May 24, 2010, ABS-CBNNews.com and the front page of The Philippine Star, an influential broadsheet, carried a piece entitled “World awaits RP’s (Republic of the Philippines) Freedom of Info Act” by veteran journalist Malou Mangahas. Here’s a snippet:
“Today starts a series of mass actions by journalists, workers, students, professionals, business and church leaders, and civil society groups in their vigorous push for Congress to ratify the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. But the world waits and watches, too. More than just a Philippine story, the 14-year advocacy of Filipinos for Congress to enact the law has become a serious concern of freedom of information advocates, scholars, and members of parliament across the globe.”
Interesting news from China: Xinhua reports the State Council has set up a section on its website to invite public opinion on draft laws and regulations. So far, says Xinhua, the website has collected opinions on seven sets of draft regulations and received 16,888 opinions from more than 9,000 people.