I’d like to share with you two views on our Freedom of Information legislation, which is the subject of some serious discussions about its future use.
The Guardian has today published a leader in defence of the Freedom of Information Act, saying that any proposed move to restrict its application would be ‘a retrograde step’.
This is in response to Parliamentary considerations on possible reform of the Act and mentions a report from the Ministry of Justice into the volume of requests dealt with by Government departments. It’s interesting that the leader states that the report suggests dealing with FoI requests is ‘increasingly onerous’, when no such language is used in the document.
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Don't bother mate: I'm closed for business
I blogged recently about a publisher I’d blacklisted for its dubious ad-selling, amongst other things. It was the first time I’d done this since moving to Bristol a couple of years ago.
Just like the proverbial buses which nobody sees until another one has just arrived, a different company has given me reason to repeat the act this week.
The offending firm has approached me unsuccessfully in the past with offers to publish ‘free editorial’ in return for allowing them to contact partners and pressure them to support this with advertising.
It’s a mystery to me why anyone in the sector supports this activity, which is often produced to such a poor quality that it is barely credible. Housing has a great story to tell, and better publications understand this and will help us to do so without charging for it.
After making this point a few times, I thought they had got the message.
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Today’s announcement that Freedom of Information (FoI) rules will be changed are worth checking out by any public sector communicator – as more of them are to be affected by it.
The move signals the Government’s intention to make it easier for the public to use the Freedom of Information Act to seek details from a wider range of bodies about how public money is spent and decisions taken.
This announcement has formed part of Nick Clegg’s speech on liberty today, which also made proposals to enhance freedom of speech principles by reforming libel laws (an issue which the media has been quick to focus on in its reports).
Despite the challenges this move poses, I welcome increased transparency and openness across the public sector. It may generate increased work levels for the organisations to be covered by the revised act for the first time; but with openness comes accountability, which is something that I would argue is a good thing.
It also creates a role for comms teams in supporting organisations who are asked to satisfy FoI requests.
The full press statement covering the Ministry of Justice announcement can be found here.