Accessibility Settings

color options

monochrome muted color dark

reading tools

isolation ruler



FOIA This! Tips on Using FOI/RTI Laws Around the World

documents-stackedTerrific stories can be built on government documents.

In this new column, I’ll be bringing you examples in which journalists successfully developed stories using national freedom of information and right to information laws. These laws now exist in 115 countries, and at many subnational levels. Making a request can be a frustrating process, but the reward can be a valuable exclusive article.

Have a great story you mined from a FOI/RTI request? Send it to us and we’ll share it with journalists worldwide.

Here’s our first column, with examples from India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

How Safe Is Blood Transfusion?

An IndiaSpend investigation by Nikhil M. Babu, based on a series of Right to Information requests, revealed (see a document) that 14,474 cases of HIV through blood transfusion have been reported in India over the last seven years. It also revealed that the Indian government has yet to order a study or inquiry into this medical crisis that puts millions of lives at risk.

How Many Traffic Tickets? 

Reporter John Reynolds of the State Journal-Record in the United States asked for the records on the numbers of speeding tickets and the number of fatalities in Illinois. Here’s his story on the data and the relationship between speed and deaths.


Drugs in Prison

Conditions in Northern Ireland’s prison for women and young offenders were explored in depth by Rebecca Black of The Belfast Telegraph. Among the data points: “Freedom of Information requests by this newspaper reveal that in just six months there have been 215 seizures of drugs and drug-related paraphernalia at Hydebank Wood — a prison with just 156 inmates.”

Police Corruption?

“Traffic cops found ‘most corrupt’ in Delhi Police,” is the headline on a story by Abhinandan Mishra and Dibyendu Mondal in The Sunday Guardian. They filed a Right to Information query with the Delhi Police seeking details of police officials against whom action was taken for indulging in corruption between January 2014 and October 2016.

toby-mcintoshToby McIntosh is editor of, a nonprofit website based in Washington, D.C., that covers international transparency laws. After 39 years at Bloomberg BNA, he semi-retired in 2014. He has filed numerous U.S. FOI requests and written about FOI policies worldwide. He is a Steering Committee member of FOIANet, an international network of FOI advocates.

Republish this article

Material from GIJN’s website is generally available for republication under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license. Images usually are published under a different license, so we advise you to use alternatives or contact us regarding permission. Here are our full terms for republication. You must credit the author, link to the original story, and name GIJN as the first publisher. For any queries or to send us a courtesy republication note, write to

Read Next

Reporting Tools & Tips

GIJN Bookshelf: A Dozen Books for Muckrakers in 2021

At GIJN we’re fortunate to come across various books and reports on the state of the news media and great investigative reporting. Here are 12 of the more interesting recent volumes we’ve found that investigative journalists might want to pick up in 2021, as well as a novel written by an investigative reporter for a little light relief.

Investigative Techniques Methodology News & Analysis Reporting Tools & Tips

Investigating Sexual Assault and Abuse

In a GIJN webinar three journalists who have experience reporting on the #MeToo movement and sexual abuse told reporters how to investigate an often-hidden crime. Among their tips are preparing interviewees for the process, investigating the story doggedly, and using alternative forms of evidence to verify your story. Read these and other tips for investigating sexual abuse allegations in GIJN’s latest tipsheet.