Freedom of Information laws are an “essential” part of any democracy, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader stated his support for FOI and stated requests should remain free to make at a lunch hosted by the News Media Association. 

“We have a Freedom of Information Act which is very, very important because freedom of information is essential in any democracy if you are to hold to account those that exercise authority, power or administration,” Corbyn told the group.

“I’m absolutely against charging for FOI requests.

Corbyn’s comments comes in the context of the government’s review of the FOI law 10 years after it came into force.

The controversial Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, which involves government mandarins and Labour’s Jack Straw, has previously stated it may consider charging for requests (they are currently free to make). Due to report in February, the Commission has received more than 30,000 pieces of evidence from the public and is currently analysing the feedback. Since it was formed in July 2015 the Commission has been heavily criticised; both Labour and the Lib Dems have called for it to be scrapped.

Chris Grayling, the Conservative leader of the House of Commons, said journalists can “misuse” the transparency law to help with research.

However, Corbyn said the FOI Act is a “very important tool” for journalists to hold officials to account.

“It’s an essential tool for the entire community. It’s also an essential tool for investigative journalists to find out what is going on in local government, local health authorities, local police and crime commissioners work and many, many other areas.

“It’s very important and I’m sure that’s something we can all agree on; the essential nature of the Freedom of Information Act, the freedom of information is a very important tool for local newspapers as well as of course national newspapers and journalists, it is a question of accountability.”

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare since ever since.