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More than 115 countries worldwide have laws that require officials to turn over public records. Of course, even in countries that have no laws it never hurts to ask. But there’s an advantage to using an access law — variously called freedom of information laws, access to information laws, right to information, and right to know laws.

There are many resources for journalists seeking to file records requests in countries with laws governing access to information. To help exploit these legal tools, we’ve lined up GIJN’s Complete Global Guide to Freedom of Information, a resource with three sections:

At the 2023 Global Investigative Journalism Conference, we also held a panel on FOIA/RTI investigations. More than half of the world’s countries have laws that require officials to supply public documents on request. These laws offer valuable windows for reporters, even for those outside of a country’s borders. But there are almost always tricks to targeting and expediting these disclosures, and this panel brings deep experience in how to do that. Cooperative reporting efforts can be key. Be inspired by how reporters in Korea combined to obtain documents about public prosecutors. Hear how Brazilian reporters harvest data and make it widely available. The Swedish access law is the world’s oldest, learn about it from an expert journalist who runs a help line. And hear about the innovative US site MuckRock, which facilitates requests and runs document-based investigations. You can watch the video below:

COVID-19 Update:

Tips on Making FOIA Requests About COVID-19 A GIJN guide on using freedom of information (FOI) laws to understand the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mountains of vital stories about the coronavirus are hidden in public records. Here’s how to FOIA for them  Story ideas from Poynter with the help of BuzzFeed investigative reporter Jason Leopold and MuckRock founder Michael Morisy.

This guide was put together by Toby McIntosh, the director of GIJN’s resource center and the former editor of, a nonprofit website based in Washington, DC that covers international transparency laws. He was with Bloomberg BNA for 39 years and has filed numerous US FOI requests and has written about FOI policies worldwide. He is also a steering committee member of FOIANet, an international network of FOI advocates.

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