OSCE Reports on Access to Information

05.03.07 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A major new report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) describes government secrecy and public access policies in dozens of countries from Albania to Uzbekistan.

The report surveyed freedom of information (FOI) laws, national security classification policies, penalties for unauthorized disclosures of information, and provisions for protecting journalists’ sources.

There is good news and bad news, the report says.

“The FOI trend in the OSCE participating States is positive. Out of 56 OSCE participating States, 45 started their ‘Copernican revolution’ in favour of the public’s right to know, by adopting national laws on access to information.”

“Unfortunately, many countries retained the right to classify a too wide array of information as ‘state secrets’. In fact, the majority of the OSCE participating States have not yet adjusted their rules of classification to the FOI principles, that is, they disregard the primacy of the public’s right to know.”

The report offers some comparative analysis and proposes a series of “best practices” in promoting public access to government information.

“There should be sanctions for those who deliberately and improperly designate information as secret or maintain excessive secrecy,” the report advises.

See the summary report, entitled “Access to information by the media in the OSCE region: trends and recommendations,” Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, 30 April 2007.

The underlying country reports (423 pages) are available here.