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 90 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.
Freedominfo.org links to county-specific laws, stories and resources.
Right2Info links to country-specific resources.
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.
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.
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.
Nepal: Citizens’ Campaign for Right to Information helps those seeking access to public records in Nepal. The organization also provides links to key government agencies and other nonprofits.
Access Info-Europe publishes the Legal Leaks Toolkit, a detailed step-by-step guide to using FOI laws in 58 countries.
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: 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: Otevrena Spolecnost provides a simple guide on filing a request with federal and regional authorities, and provides links to such agencies as:
Germany: Frag Den Staat! provides an automated request platform to assist those who want to request information from German authorities.
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
Italy: Diritto Di Sapere has analyzed the government’s implementation of public records laws and developed a manual for journalists seeking to file requests with local or federal agencies.
Kosovo: Informata Zyrtare provides an automated request platform as well as links to the FOI offices for federal agencies.
Russia: 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.
Serbia: The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Serbia) launched a portal to public financial records in six databases including discretionary spending, public procurement and elections.
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: Öffentlichkeitsgesetz provides an automated request platform to assist those who want to request information from Swiss authorities. The reporter-operated site also hosts a whistle-blower tip line, a trove of previously-requested pubic records and a great tipsheet on requesting documents.
Switzerland: The Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner is the federal agency taxed with facilitating with records requests to federal agencies.
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.
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.
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.
Trinidad and Tobago: The nation’s Freedom of Information Unit provides a basic how-to and for filing a records request.
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
Armenia: Freedom of Information Center (Armenia) offers a simple guide on FOIA in Armenia.
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.
The National Archive provides a simple primer for how to file a federal request. They also note 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.
The National Freedom of Information Coalition provides state-specific resources and provides sample language for both state and federal requests.
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
- The province of Saskatchewan
- The territory of Yukon