Freedom of Information isn’t sexy. There are no fancy parties with free flowing champagne. It’s a piece of legislation that’s complex, intricate and often subjective.
The CFoI and its redoubtable director Maurice Frankel is owed an enormous debt by the public and by journalists to whom it has provided a vital research tool, the Freedom of Information request.
Without these requests, tens of thousands of revelations about official activities would not have been possible.
For the Freedom of Information Act to develop and be able to rival the more mature systems in the United States and Australia it needs an expert supporter which is willing to kick up a fuss when things are going to be changed (for better or worse). This is what the Campaign for Freedom of Information does, and it does it very well.
The FOI Act has faced heavy opposition from politicians since before its inception, as Jon Baines blogs:
In Jack Straw’s recently published, and sometimes rather mean-spirited memoirs, potentially just how little is owed to those who are now seen as the key figures in that Labour administration, and how much is owed to the Campaign for Freedom of Information.
It’s not just the media that has benefitted from the Act, as FOI Man writes:
But in addition to the media, there are many of us who have benefited from CFOI’s work over the last 30 years. I wouldn’t be in the job I’m in, be writing a blog about FOI, or have the opportunities I wrote of above. Many FOI Officers and records managers owe their employment to FOI’s continued existence. Training companies and legal firms make money from FOI. Charities are able to sharpen their campaigns using information obtained through FOI. Businesses use FOI to gain valuable intelligence on public sector contracts. And that’s ignoring the wider benefit to the public of the greater transparency that FOI has brought. And it probably isn’t going too far to argue that none of this would be the case without the Campaign for Freedom of Information.
The Freedom of Information Act, despite politician’s disdain, isn’t going to be abolished. It is here to stay. While it is here it needs a campaign group which is organised and will protect it when it is needed.
Without the Campaign for Freedom of Information it would make it that bit easier for politicians to revert to their old tricks of secrecy and would close the doors to the public’s right to know.
So now is the time to back the Freedom of Information Act, and the Campaign for Freedom of Information.