Obviously, open and easy access to government information is not only essential to democracy here in the United States, it’s vital throughout the world as well. Global Integrity, who came out with their annual Global Integrity Report last month (which I blogged about then) has followed up with a more focused look at the degree of freedom of information in each country.
Every year, Global Integrity’s research teams assess whether citizens of each country have a right to government information. Regionally, the Middle East and North Africa score the worst when it comes to freedom of government information. Not all is totally bleak in those regions. Jordan is notable for making significant reforms. Unsurprisingly, those scoring the highest in access to government information are most European countries and Japan.
Most Eastern European nations are dramatically improving their scores, which Global Integrity attributes at least partly to their drive for membership in the European Union. Also at play, in a quite inspiring fashion, is how the region’s history of totalitarian domination, filled with decades of intimidation, paranoia and disappearance, has made government transparency appealing. Most of the region’s governments have opened up Soviet-era surveillance files, further fueling the desire to reject the secrecy of the police state and embrace open and democratic government.
Unfortunately, the United States does not make the “best of” list, nor does Canada. Long delays in government replies to information requests are the culprit. We’ve got much work to do. Hopefully, Attorney General Eric Holder’s memo instituting “a presumption of openness” in regard to federal agencies’ responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, which he issued last week, is a big step in the right direction.
Check out Global Integrity’s report.