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Freedom of Information Act

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Many countries in the world have rules about Freedom of Information (usually in respect of what Government departments have to reveal).

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United States

In the United States the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments[?] have been signed by President Bill Clinton on October 2, 1996 following the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect the following year.


The Irish Freedom of Information Act came into effect in April, 1998. The Act has led to a sea-change in the relationship between the citizen, journalists, Government departments and public bodies. There are very few restrictions on the information that can be made public. A notable feature is the presumption that anything not restricted by the Act is accessible. In this regard it is a much more liberal Act than the proposed UK Act, which has not yet been implemented. Decisions of public bodies in relation to requests for information may be reviewed by the Information Commissioner.

External links Information Commissioner (Ireland) website (http://www.oic.gov.ie/)

For a comprenensive list of the almost 400 bodies (each of which has appointed a Freedom of Information Officer) currently within the scope of the FOI Act visit: Irish public bodies within scope of FOI act website (http://www.oic.gov.ie/213e_3c2.htm)

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom there was traditionally no 'right to know' on behalf of the public. Regulation and control of the Executive was traditionally carried out by Committees of the House of Commons and House of Lords. However, as part of their 1997 election manifesto the Labour Party promised to bring in a freedom of information act.

This was duly done, but the final version is generally believed to have be significantly diluted from that proposed while Labour were in opposition. Moreover, the timetable for bringing the Act into force (in the UK Acts of Parliament do not necessarily come into force on the date they are made) has been continually pushed back.

The act is the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor's Department[?] [1] (http://www.lcd.gov.uk). The Act led to the renaming of the Data Protection Commissioner who is now known as the Information Commissioner and it is the Office of the Information Commissioner who will oversee the operation of the Act, when it comes into force. [2] (http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk)

The Act itself is Crown Copyright but can be found at the website of HM Stationery Office[?] [3] (http://www.hmso.gov.uk)

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