Below are a few of the best resources for journalists seeking to file records requests in countries with laws governing access to information.
Remember that while more than 100 countries have laws that require officials to turn over public records, many other countries have no laws specifying whether those records should or should not be made available. It never hurts to ask.
Have an addition or update? Send it to hello(at)gijn.org.
Freedominfo.org links to county-specific laws, stories and resources.
Right2Info links to country-specific resources.
Global Right to Information Rating analyzes the quality of access to information laws around the world.
IFEX has a good overview of the expansion of FOI laws in Africa, including some of the problems faced in implementation.
Africa Freedom of Information Centre is one of the only Africa-wide resources on a continent with few laws governing access to information.
South Africa: Open Democracy Advice Centre provides forms for requesting documents from public and private entities. Right2Know assists those seeking access to public records. Ask Africa is online FOI request portal for making direct online FOI requests. The site also lists the answers to those requests.
Uganda: Ask your Gov Uganda is an online FOI request portal where users can make direct FOI requests to government institutions. The site also posts answers publicly to those requests.
Australia: Right2Know (provides an automated request platform as well as links to the foia offices for more than 300 agencies. The Attorney General provides a guide to filing records request as well as a log of previous disclosures.
Bangladesh: The Information Commission is a government site that provides information on how to file a request. You will need to cut and paste into Google Translate, as the text does not appear in the English version. The RTI Resource Centre provides resources for those seeking to file a records request with federal agencies.
China: Freedom of Information in China provides a clear list of items subject to open records requests on the federal regional and local level.
Hong Kong: Code on Access to Information provides information on filing a request and contact information for an “access to information” officer.
India: Right To Information: A Citizen Gateway is the Indian government portal for its successful RTI. Central Information Commission is the federal agency that hears complaints of denial to records requests. It provides a linked list of state-level agencies (look for “Links to State Information Commissions” on the left scrollbar). See also the site Mahiti Adhikar Manch, which is a good clearinghouse of info on the Indian RTI.
Japan: Citizens’ Center for Information Disclosure helps those interested in filing requests. The site does not lend itself to language translation, but contact information is available at the bottom of the home page.
New Zealand: FYI is an online FOI request site, with a searchable database to check requests already made, as well as institution contact information.
Ask the EU assists those who want to request information from the EU. You must register, but there is no charge assisted with records requests.
Wobbing Europe aims to support journalists in using FOI laws through training, educating, networking, and strengthening legislation and access.
Bosnia: Pravo da Znam is a new online FOI request site for citizens. Additionally, the Center for Free Access to Information provides free assistance to those who want to request information from government authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Czech Republic: Try Informace pro vsechny if you need to get information generally on FOI in the Czech Republic, make an online request, or want to know the status of requests. Otevrena Spolecnost provides a simple guide on filing a request with federal and regional authorities, and provides links to such agencies as:
Hungary: KiMitTud is an online FOI request site. Visitors submit requests through the website, where they can also check for answers.
Ireland: Freedom of Information Law is a project of University College. It provides links to the FOIA offices of a number of regional and federal agencies. Some links are broken, though the majority are available, including:
- Department of Defense
- Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
- Department of Finance
- Department of Health
Kosovo: Informata Zyrtare provides an automated request platform as well as links to the FOI offices for federal agencies.
Macedonia: Sloboden Pristap is an online FOI request site. The service is an activity of the Law Program at the Open Society Institute – Macedonia, in cooperation with the Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society.
Portugal: The Comissão de Acesso aos Documentos Administrativos (CADA) oversees administration of Portugal’s FOI law, which has been in effect since 1993.
Romania: NuVaSuparati.info is an online tool to submit and check on FOI requests.
Russia: The Freedom of Information Foundation fights for access to information, and is one of the best resources we’ve found when seeking assistance on obtaining documents in Russia.
Spain: Although Spain is one of the few Western European states without an FOI law, TuDerechoaSaber provides an automated request platform to assist those who want to request information from Spanish authorities.
Switzerland: The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner is the federal agency taxed with facilitating with records requests to federal agencies. Öeffentlichkeitsgesetz is an online FOI request site, available in German and French.
Ukraine: Access the Truth is an online FOI request site co-hosted by the newspaper Ukrainian Truth.
United Kingdom: What Do They Know? provides an automated request platform to assist those who want to request information from the UK. You must register, but there is no charge assisted with records requests. The Scottish Government also fields an FOI office for requesters. FOI Directory covers freedom of information in the UK with a directory of 10,000+ emails for public authorities FOI stories in the media. Website under construction until February 2015.
Brazil: Fórum de Direito de Acesso a Informações Públicas provides a simple guide and form letter for filing records requests with government agencies.
Cayman Islands: There is an Information Commissioner’s Office available to the public.
Chile: Acceso Inteligente provides an automated request platform. You must register, but there is no charge associated with records requests. Pro Acceso Fundación provides a simple guide to filing records requests with government agencies.
Guatemala: Guateinformada is an online FOI request site. Users submit requests via the site and answers will be publicly posted there, as well.
Jamaica: Access to Information Unit is a government agency that processes records requests.
Mexico: Sistema Infomex is an autonomous agency established to facilitate an online request system. You must register, but there is no charge associated with the initial records requests. The site also provides links to state and municipal governments.
Uruguay: Que Sabes? provides an automated request platform based on the UK model. You must register, but there is no charge associated with the initial records requests.
MIDDLE EAST/NEAR EAST/CAUCASUS
Georgia: Institute for Development of Freedom of Information provides a simple guide to filing a request with government authorities as well as a database of previously requested documents.
Israel: The Movement for Freedom of Information provides a guide to filing records requests and provides links and contact information to the foia offices for a number of key institutions. Ask Data is an FOI request portal where users can request information and check the status of their requests. All information is posted (both the request and the answer).
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a FOIA Letter Generator for federal offices and most state ones, and a comprehensive guide to using the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. There are also guides on open records laws and access at the state and federal level.
FOIA Machine is an open-source platform that allows citizens and journalists to easily prepare, file, and track multiple public records requests to various governmental and public agencies worldwide. In the current beta version, however, the information and resources on the site are US-focused.
The National Archive provides a simple primer for how to file a federal request. They also not that if you’re a journalist you can apply for a fee waiver. FOIA requests can be made by anyone, regardless if you are a U.S. citizen.
FOIA.GOV provides direct links to the FOIA offices for major federal agencies.
MuckRock lets users create, file, track, and share public records requests. It also provides an online repository of hundreds of thousands of pages of original government materials, information on how to file requests, and tools to make the requesting process easier.
The Treasury Board of Canada is responsible for government-wide administration of the country’s federal Access to Information Act. There are also offices at the provincial and territorial level:
- The province of Alberta
- The province of British Columbia
- The province of Manitoba
- The province of Newfoundland Labrador
- The province of New Brunswick
- The province of Nova Scotia
- The province of Ontario
- The province of Québec (also try Je Veux Savoir)
- The province of Saskatchewan
- The territory of Yukon