#AccessToInfoDay – The Italian FOIA translated in English


Today we celebrate the first International Right To Know Day. After fourteen years from the first Right To Know Day, launched by a group of activists in 2002, this event was formally recognised by the UNESCO General Assembly in November 2015.

This year has been especially important for Italian RTI activists: last May, with the approval of the legislative decree n.96/2016, as part of the Public Administration Reform, Italy has revised its Transparency law n.33/2013 (mostly regulating proactive transparency) with new provisions on the right of access to information.

According to Article 5.2 “everyone has the right to access the data and documents held by the public administrations other than the ones subject to publication”: this means that even non Italian citizens can send access to information requests to Italian public bodies.

Therefore we thought it would be important to provide an English translation of the text for all the foreign citizens, journalists, activists and academics interested in exercising this right.

Note that, even if the new law is already in force, public bodies have still less than three months (precisely until the 23rd of December) to adjust their procedures with the new obligations. Before that date the National Anticorruption Agency will issue guidelines on the application of the cases of exemptions.

Below you can find the full text of the reformed Italian Transparency Decree translated in English.
You can also download it by clicking 


[RESEARCH] The relation between transparency and accountability

As part of our research efforts, here’s the another update on the most important research on FOI and open data all over the world, by our intern Alexandre Salha, a researcher who worked on access to information in his native Lebanon.


In his chapter of Oxford Handbook of Public Accountability, Pr. Meijer defines the relation between Transparency and Accountability – globally known as T/A – which he can resume in three cause-and-effect equations:

  • Transparency for horizontal accountability

  • Transparency for vertical accountability

  • Transparency for less accountability

However, these three levels are most probably applied in a proper context of availability of information, which people can process in order to have an impact on the government and public institutions.

Before tackling this issue, he starts with a theoretical and historical approach of the topic showing how the idea of openness and therefore transparency became a universal acknowledgement.

Although it is a basic requirement for democracies, government transparency – especially with the Freedom of Information Act – is moving from liberal to new democracies and even non-democratic countries as stated by Meijer. Enhancing transparency increases accountability, helps curbing corruption and connects citizens with the government and the decision-making process.

According to Meijer, “both the eye of God and the public eyes convey the idea that we are being watched and, therefore, we should behave.”

This was one of the outcomes of the French revolution – concretized years later with the Freedom of Information Act – against philosophers claiming that “the integrity of the state would be undermined by transparency”. Even though the FOIA became popular, it should shift from a passive to a proactive legislation, with the assistance of new technologies introduced in public institutions.

In order to do so and to have an efficient impact, Pr. Meijer defined three perspectives on transparency:

  • As a virtue

  • As a relation

  • As a system

These three perspectives are essential for accountability as they form a complete triangle of interaction, as mentioned in this chapter: “Transparency is defined as the availability of information about an actor allowing other actors to monitor the workings or performance of this actor.”

And now a question to you: Under which circumstances transparency leads to accountability without distorting the public trust, the democratization process and the people’s engagement in public affairs?

We are hiring!

Diritto Di Sapere is looking for a Community Development Coordinator. The ideal candidate is committed, enthusiastic and passionate about access to information, civic technology and human rights. In addition to the community building and writing aspects of the work, the role also requires some administrative work to organize public events and workshops in Italy. Contract is to start in March 2015.

Responsibilities include
Strengthening the community of users around the online platform www.dirittodisapere.it by proactively and creatively engaging with a different range of audiences
Providing support to users on how to file access to information requests with the online platform being developed;
Liaising with legal and technical staff and developers to ensure that the platform is run successfully;
Coordinating the activities with the communication consultant;
Monitoring emerging trends and developments in the areas of human rights & civic technology and media via social networks and traditional media outlets with a particular focus on transparency, accountability, open government and open data
Occasionally writing and editing blog posts in Italian and English about DDS’s work and related topics; curating cross-posted blog posts from guest authors and bloggers;
Reporting regularly to the director and the board on activities.

Knowledge of issues related to access to information at national and international level;
Ability to learn new issues quickly;
Ability to communicate in a clear, compelling, and concise manner;
Ability to write clearly, persuasively, and quickly for a range of audiences in Italian;
Ability to communicate comfortably and clearly in English;
Good organizational and administrative skills;
Ability to work in team and independently, under strict deadlines and time constraints
Willingness to travel within Italy and occasionally abroad.

Apply sending cv to: info (at) dirittodisapere.it

Closing date for applications: on rolling basis until the 28 February 2015.

Interviews will be held online.

Regno Unito: un bilancio del Freedom of Information Act 10 anni dopo

Con l’inizio del 2015 il Freedom of Information Act inglese compie 10 anni.
Ripubblichiamo qui il bilancio di luci e ombre che ne fa il ricercatore Ben Worthy (pubblicato originariamente qui). Buona lettura e buon anno a tutti!

operation-unthinkableThe truth is that the FOI Act isn’t used, for the most part, by ‘the people’. It’s used by journalists. For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet.

Tony Blair 2010

The Freedom of Information Act has enhanced the UK’s democratic system and made our public bodies more open, accountable and transparent. It has been a success and we do not wish to diminish its intended scope, or its effectiveness.

House of Commons Justice Select Committee 2012 Post-Legislative Scrutiny of FOI

These two comments sum up the difficulties of measuring how successful the UK Freedom of Information Act has been. It isn’t just about statistics on numbers of requests, users or refusals (though there are some here if you are interested). What people think also shapes how it works and how others then behave. So a former Prime Minister sees it as one of his biggest mistakes while a Parliamentary committee see it as a vital part of democracy. Which is it?

What Does FOI look like?

One way to think about FOI is as an iceberg (as Nicola White said in her great book). iceberg

We can see only a small part of the overall process, those high level, often national FOI requests that attract controversy or attention-the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009 was the big one that set off a chain reaction of resignations and reform.[i] There has also been FOI exposure of all sorts of subjects, from the Iraq war to health reform. In recent days, for example, we have had stories about where the Environment Agency invests its money, the number of pupils at new Free schools or the cost of green policies–see David Higgerson’s FOI Friday round-up for more.

But underneath this, there are a large number of requests, probably 90 % or more, that we don’t see. Our research found most requests go to local government, somewhere between 70 to 80 % or 3.5 to 4 in every five requests (see what the Justice Committee said here). These are about local or personal issues-waste, street fixing, tax and permits- that are often ‘under the radar’. That’s not to say they can’t be spectacular-Tony Blair probably never expected his new law would lead to us knowing that 3 people were banned from Birmingham’s new library for being too smelly or to theresignation en masse of Walberswick Parish council in Suffolk. But real FOI is local, focused and probably bringing hidden benefits we don’t easily see.

Who Uses FOI?

A key problem underlining all FOI analysis is the lack of knowledge about requesters and their motivations. The table below is based on estimates of requester types to central and local government from FOI officers.

Requester Local Government (%) Central Government (%)
Public    37 39
Journalist    33 8
Business    22 8
Academic    1–2 13


Contrary to the views of Tony Blair, FOI requesters are not just journalists. The largest group across central and local government appears to be members of the public. We felt that the public consists of a small group of politically engaged with a larger group pursuing issues of “micro-politics” or of private importance.

There is a clear rise and fall of public interest with the news agenda-snow leads to requests about snow plows, spying about government snooping levels. However, many requests were focused, “quite niche” or on “specialised” issues- a planning dispute or parking fine at local level or access to benefits at central government (or even who was paid what to switch on the town Christmas lights).

Requesters’ motivations were also diverse. Even the small sample of requesters we found and spoke to in our studies gave a huge variety of reasons for using FOI, from “concern about wasted money” to “curiosity”, “general interest” and personal campaigns against “corrupt” local government. So, the sheer variability of requester motivations and use underscores the variability of impact of the Act upon different public bodies.

Who’s Against It? Fighting on the Border

FOI has been subject to clear ‘battle’ over how the Act is working, with a public divide between sceptical (mainly) senior politicians and officials and supporters of the Act in the media, NGOs and the appeal system.

The extent to which FOI is supported varies across departments and local government bodies, dependent on the individual leadership, culture and environment of different public bodies. On the whole, government officials support the Act and work with it.

While welcoming it as an idea, senior politicians have been less keen on the loss of control or unexpected issues or scandals sprung on them. As well as claiming it is vaguely ‘abused’, a number of senior officials and politicians have argued that FOI negatively affects decision-making processes, though we found there was no real evidence for this (which didn’t stop some rather interesting anecdotes to the Select Committee). While Tony Blair was clear in his views that FOI was an all-round disaster, David Cameron’s more subtle approach has been to argue that ‘real freedom of Information’ was about ‘spending’ while other requests ‘furred up the arteries’ of government-a comment that revealed a very particular view of what information rights ‘should’ be used for.

Numerous politicians have also highlighted the ‘cost’ of FOI, though, like many economic arguments, this is actually smokescreen for a political debate. And when different studies have concluded that requests costs either £200, £36 or £19 each, the discussion becomes a little confusing (see this post here and a longer report here). The danger is that all this combined negativity may encourage poor behaviour and lead to a small ‘anti- FOI’ group at the very top of government. While, for example, Blair’s claim that FOI is used only by journalists is demonstrably untrue, it adds to a distorted view of FOI.

On the other side of the divide, FOI has a clear constituency of supporters in the media, Parliament and across various NGOs as well as in the courts and the appeal system. Supported by high profile cases such as MPs’ expenses, the symbolic importance of FOI legislation offers the reform a robust protection, backed up by a powerful and vocal constituency. Supporters of the Act have constantly innovated, pushed key cases and also sought to persuade successive governments to extend the Act private bodies working on behalf of public authorities.

Since 2005, but gathering pace since Tony Blair’s comments in 2010, there remains a continuous ‘fighting on the borders’ over where the Act begins and ends and whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. In 2009, supporters scored some success by persuading Gordon Brown to shorten the period of disclosure of historical records from 30 to 20 years. David Cameron’s Transparency Agenda has undoubtedly helped push further openness, as have events like the Hillsborough inquiry.

However, at the same time the scepticism from the top of government has encouraged a series of attempts to restrict the Act. This included an attempt to change the costing regime in 2006, to remove Parliament from the ambit of the Act in 2006-2007 and introduce greater protections for Cabinet documents in 2010. Only the removal of the Monarch and heir from the Act was successful, probably because it went largely unnoticed (though the Monarchy is not out of the woods yet). As of writing now, the government has hinted that it may seek to limit what it ambiguously describes as ‘industrial’ users, though this close to a General Election it’s unlikley. The fact that all but one attempt was seen off shows how strong FOI’s support base is. For now…

And so?

FOI appears to be a success and is (probably) here to stay. This is not just about numbers- it is supported, used and co-operated with by most officials. It can, and does, bring very public benefits and may also be locally bringing positive outcomes we don’t see.

It has not only led to new issues on the agenda (not least the UK’s role both in extraordinary rendition and covering it up) but also helped in the creation of a new watchdog to regulate MPs’ expenses and a change in the law over the tax status of members of the House of Lords. It has also kicked off developments like mySociety’s WhatDoTheyKnow and has popped up in all sorts of interesting areas, such as the app that lets you know if politicians are editing Wikipedia pages.

It is not without its difficulties or problems-it can be abused, misused or misunderstood. All openness brings problems of one kind or another. But the disruption and uncertainty may be an essential part of any openness law. One way of thinking of FOI is as a form of turbulence-an instrument of unpredictability, like e-petitions. So Tony Blair’s complaints may be (in part) a sign of the Act doing its job well. It is its very unpredictability and annoyance that makes it powerful. As I’ve said elsewhere, it also enshrines an important principle-but not one that lets politicians sleep soundly in their beds.[ii]

Further reading

Justice Committee (2012) Post-legislative Review of Freedom of Information here

Worthy, Ben and Hazell, Robert, The Impact of the Freedom of Information Act in the UK (August 26, 2013). Nigel Bowles, James T Hamilton, David Levy (eds) Transparency in Politics and the Media: Accountability and Open Government, London: L.B. Tauris, 31-45, 2013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2487541 and work by the Constitution Unit here.


[i] I’m obliged to point out the scandal was a combination of an FOI request by Heather Brooke, four years of appeals, a court case and (finally) a good old fashioned paid for leak.

[ii] I shamelessly borrowed this from Orwell’s definition of liberty ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’ (from his unpublished preface to Animal Farm) and tried to rework this to fit transparency: ‘Transparency is the right to ask questions those in power don’t want asked and look for information they don’t want us to see’ see this post.

P.S. for anyone interested, the pictured document comes from Churchill’s 1945 planning for the very aptly named ‘Operation Unthinkable’ his appraisal of the consequences of a war between the US/UK and the the USSR

[RESEARCH] Making Transparency Stick: The Dynamics of Open Data

As part of our research efforts, here’s the another update on the most important research on FOI and open data all over the world, by our intern Alexandre Salha, a researcher who worked on access to information in his native Lebanon. Today’s analysis focuses on the effectiveness of open data policy, as explored in a paper by researcher Ben Worthy.

#opengov (publicity, accountability, transparency) venn diagram - Foto di Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0)https://www.flickr.com/photos/notbrucelee/6166628554
#opengov (publicity, accountability, transparency) venn diagram – Foto di Justin Grimes (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this paper, Ben Worthy identifies – based on the UK reform – the indicators of successful and/or failing Open Data policies.

In fact, he argues, the fate of these policies depends on the synergy built between enactment and post-enactment. Plus “policy feedback” plays an important role in assessing the impact of any reform. A strong feedback is able to build collective support among all involved actors to remake politics.

The Open Data policy in this paper is summarized under the UK’s Transparency Agenda which includes sub-policies:

  • Publishing spending data

  • Publishing service data

  • Platforms

  • Running experiments

  • Legal reforms

  • Charters and international agreements

During the enactment phase, Worthy identifies the Vision, the Symbolism and the Mechanics of Open Data policy.

First, “the vision of Open Data is powerful yet vague”. Under the umbrella of transparency, it has political, social and economic impacts on the nation as a whole. It can be used to promote more accountability, to develop public participation and/or to enhance economic growth and innovation. Hence Open Data is also unclear.

Some mistaken thoughts about technology of Open Data being as a solution for political problems are made, a very deterministic thought, standing between technology of Open Data and the politics of Open Government.

Second, Open Data is a symbolic policy yet voteless. According to Worthy, it offers on one side, transformative opportunities to remake politics under the democratic values, such as accountability, participation and empowerment; but, on the other side, although it attracts political support, it bring no electoral advantages.

[GUEST] What Happens When You Publish Salaries?

Secondo appuntamento con Ben Worthy per parlare dell’impatto degli open data.
Il post originale è stato pubblicato qui lo scorso luglio. 


The publication of what public officials earn was one of the big headline grabbing policies of the government’s Transparency Agenda back in 2010. From MPs’ expenses to the pay levels of senior Civil Servants, publication of who gets what is always tricky and sensitive- and often leads to ‘rich lists’ like this one. Now it may be the turn of high-earning academics to disclose what they earn, given this recent ICO decision in relation to Kings College London-see the background here.

The idea is that publication of salaries leads to the reigning in of large salaries, as public bodies cut back due to embarrassment or because others take action to reduce them. This also plays into a wider story, that looks set to be part of the General Election battle, about income inequality (you can see some interesting ONS statistics on earnings here).

As ever, the US is far ahead in the publishing of salaries. The Missouri Accountability Portal allows you to see all employees’ salaries at the push of a button. However, a study of public sector disclosure legislation in Canada (looking at academics) found no decrease insalaries after publication (and pointed out, bless them, that academics were paid less than they should be). Ontario’s so-called ‘Sunshine List’ of high earners made no difference either.

More interestingly, some research reveals publication of salaries actually has the opposite effect to that intended and is rather wonderfully counter-productive. This study of German CEOs found that when their salaries were published, other senior salaries went up as colleagues became aware of how much their colleagues earned and then pressured or negotiated for a pay rise. Rather than leading to cutting back or embarrassment, it led others to say ‘why aren’t I getting that much’?

The constant focus on ‘pay’ misses out a potentially more important discussion about performance – this study indicates some of the top US CEOs were getting better rewarded for poorer performances. Perhaps we could try and see if the Civil Servants paid more than the Prime Minister are doing a better job than he is? This points to a further difficulty that those in business do not have-given that neither MPs nor the Prime Minister have a formal job description, what constitutes a ‘good’ performance for a politician?


FOI and Open Data: Where Are We Now?

Con questo post iniziamo una collaborazione con Ben Worthy, ricercatore inglese che insegna al Birkbeck College (University of London) e che si occupa di trasparenza, accesso all’informazione e impatto degli open data. Il post è stato originariamente pubblicato sul blog di Ben, che ringraziamo.


It is almost a decade since the Freedom of Information Act 2005 came into force and five years since the Coalition launched its ‘Transparency Agenda’, aimed at increasing online transparency. What has been the impact of the two reforms so far?

The Impact of FOI and Open Data

Freedom of Information 2005-2014

The key driver of any FOI regime is requests. The number of FOI requests to UK central government have gone up around 6 % per year, from 38,000 in 2005 to 53,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, local government is the recipient of the vast majority of FOIs-numbers increased more than three fold in the first five years, accounting for between 70-80% of all requests. Users, as far as we know, are a mixed group of the public (the biggest user group) alongside journalists, businesses and NGOs.

So what impact has FOI had? It has undoubtedly made public bodies more transparent about all sorts of topics, from salaries to road maintenance. According to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, it has also ‘contributed to a culture of greater openness across public authorities … public officials not only to implement the Act but to work with the spirit of FOI to achieve greater openness’ (Justice 2012). The government agreed that the ‘Act has contributed to a culture of greater openness across public authorities’ (Justice 2012, 4).

Public bodies and figures are more accountable because of FOI. The Act often works with other mechanisms (such as the media, MPs or NGOs) as a tool to put together information for campaigns. Although high profile cases, such as MPs’ expenses, attract publicity, FOI is often used, especially at local level, as a ‘jigsaw’ tool to put together information rather than to obtain scandalous ‘smoking guns’.

Some of the more ambitious aims have not been met. This is not because the Act has failed but because the aims were far too high. FOI has not, by itself, improved the quality of decision-making, public understanding of decision-making or participation. Superficially FOI does not appear to have increased trust in government-the Justice Committee concluded FOI had ‘no generalisable impact’ on it. However, trust is a complex issue and Even the seemingly clear ‘drop’ in trust created by the MPs’ expenses scandal is not as simple as it seems: the disclosure that some MPs are corrupt came as confirmation not a revelation to many. On a positive note, despite the claims of many ex-senior politicians, the records are not disappearing: a ‘chilling effect’ can be seen in a few politically sensitive cases but is not happening systematically.

Open Data 2010-2014

 The Coalition’s Transparency Agenda is actually a series of different reforms, all using information technology to encourage openness. They include new data platforms, publication of frontline service and spending data and innovations such as online crime maps and crowd-sourced experiments.

The effects so far seem variable. High profile Open Data platforms like data.gov.uk have attracted users and innovators while the crime map, police.uk, crashed on the first day due to levels of use. Some other experiments have been less successful and the crowd-sourcing of policy had to be scaled back.

One flagship innovation in the UK has been to ask all local authorities to publish on a monthly basis their spending over £500 onlines-see my analysis here. There appears to be little use by the public yet, though some by journalists and businesses. There is no sign of the promised ‘army’ of citizen auditors using the data to hold authorities to account. Some are concerned, both in the UK and elsewhere, that publishing spending data encourages emphasis on ‘costs’ rather than impact. However, the local spending data has launched several interesting third party innovations, some of which have been created ‘upwards’ from the community and others between public bodies-see below.


For transparency to be successful senior politicians both within organisations and nationally need to push for it and support. One of the big concerns is that there will be hostility and resistance. The problem is that leaders quickly go off being transparent. Tony Blair, who passed the FOI Act, gave his verdict:

The truth is that the FOI Act isn’t used, for the most part, by ‘the people’. It’s used by journalists. For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet (Blair 2010, 516-517).

David Cameron also spoke of how the Act can ‘occasionally fur up the arteries of government’ (BBC 7 Mar 2012). The danger is that such negativity may encourage poor behaviour and lead to a small ‘anti-FOI’ group at the very top of government. In several local authorities there is a similar rumble of discontent at the time and resources FOI uses and the damage ‘frivolous’ requests cause.

The dislike of FOI can also translate into action. In the UK the veto has now been usedseven times to prevent the release of information including for Cabinet discussions over the war in Iraq and correspondence between Prince Charles and the government. In 2006 an attempt was made by the Blair government to introduce fees for FOI, as happened in Ireland in 2005. This was closely followed by an attempt by a group of MPs to remove Parliament from the FOI Act.

Neither is Open Data fully supported. The government’s initial emphasis on the ‘democratic’ benefits of the reforms have been downplayed with a shift to the economic benefits. The Public Administration Committee claimed that some departments and Ministers are more interested than others. Across local government there has been varying degrees of enthusiasm for the Open Data and spending publication. Some local authorities have innovated, a few resisted while the majority seem to be going through the motions. Local councils are keen to be develop new tools for citizens but are concerned at the resource implications and is unclear on what the agenda is meant to do-see this LGA survey.

Where Next?

So what does the future hold? The first area is private providers. Section 5 of the Act can be used to extend the scope of the legislation and all the main parties are committed to extension to ‘private providers’ working on behalf of public authorities. FOI already allows access to some information held by private bodies relating to public work and most bodies are happy to provide it, albeit with some high profile exceptions. In 2007 Gordon Brown committed to extend the Act to all public work carried out by private bodies but eventually did not do so, concerned about potential costs to businesses. In 2010 the new Coalition government (again) committed to extend it but are yet to do so. The recent post-legislative scrutiny recommended that FOI be enforced by contracts rather than explicit extension of the Act. It could also be that we can start to find out more about what businesses do for public bodies via Open Data, as providers give more information through experiments like contracts finder.

Could there be other changes? Although most past attempts to reform the Act have failed, it is possible that future governments, sceptical of FOI, may try again whether directly, through changes to the law, or indirectly through ‘resource starvation’. The current government has expressed its concerns about what it calls ‘industrial’ users of the FOI Act. On the other hand, it is possible that parts of the Open Data agenda may turned from ‘codes’ into law. One concern of campaigners is that the government may ‘give’ Open Data with one hand and ‘take away’ information rights with the other.

Finally, are there areas where FOI and Open Data could meet? The FOI has already been amended to include datasets. Advocates and officials feelonline publication, FOI and new innovations could serve to mutually reinforce each other. This can already be seen with mySociety’s WhatDoTheyKnow that publishes FOI’s publically (and accounts for 10% of all FOIs) or Openly Local, an interactive merging of democratic and financial data. Other innovations could bring easy comparability such as Appgov (note-this site is currently in the development stages).


Ten years after FOI the UK has seen a huge advance in openness. The Act is working well. It is embedded within public bodies, from central government to Parish council, and is an accepted part of the political landscape. Open Data is more uneven but it is likely to take time as developers do new things with the data. The concern is that the ‘myths’ around being open obscure how it actually works. There are legitimate concerns about use but these are becoming confused with the claims of unhappy politicians-complaints from politicians may be a sign of transparency doing its job.

This piece was originally written for and published by PDP

FOIAnet pubblica il Global Right to Information Update

Global Right to Information Update
Global Right to Information Update

La scorsa settimana il Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) ha presentato il Global Right to Information Update, uno studio sullo sviluppo del movimento che si occupa di diritto all’informazione.

L’analisi, condotta per regione, nasce dal decimo anniversario della Giornata Internazionale del Diritto all’Informazione, celebrata da FOIAnet il 28 settembre dello scorso anno.

Il rapporto è frutto del lavoro di attivisti che operano nel campo dei diritti umani in ciascuna delle sette regioni indicate e presenta le diverse sfide, attività ed esperienze che la società civile affronta nell’ambito del diritto all’informazione.

Lo studio descrive inoltre le principali battaglie in corso in ogni regione su questo tema, evidenziando successi, sconfitte e lezioni per il futuro, oltre a una selezione di casi di studio che mostrano come il diritto all’informazione venga promosso in ciascuna regione.

Il report si propone inoltre di aiutare gli attivisti e i sostenitori del diritto all’informazione a condividere strategie di successo per affrontare gli ostacoli in questo ambito, per promuovere una migliore comprensione e un dibattito internazionale tra le diverse regioni.

Il rapporto è disponibile sul sito di FOIAnet e nella nostra pagina Materiali, assieme a numerosi altri studi e ricerche.

[ENG] Why Italy Needs a Proper Freedom of Information Law

[This article is crossposted on the Open Society Foundations blog]

How safe is your child’s school? Is your municipality gambling taxpayer’s money in risky and unfavorable swap contracts? Or simply, when is the last time the restaurant down the road passed its health inspection? These are just a handful of the questions Italian civil society activists and journalists have started asking in the recent months.

Queries such as these should receive an answer in any democratic country with a freedom of information law. Yet rarely have they received a satisfactory answer in Italy—and sometimes only after a court appeal. The previous government, headed by Mario Monti, pushed hard on transparency in an effort to fight corruption—an endemic plague estimated to drain €60 billion from the country’s economy every year.

Transparency has also been one of the strongest arguments in Beppe Grillo’s political campaign, which led his M5S to conquer 25 percent of votes in the February elections. With much fanfare, Italy recently joined the Open Government Partnership, and in April, a new transparency law (Decree 33/2013) came into effect.

However, on-the-ground transparency still seems in a dire state. When it comes to access to information (the public’s right to obtain and use information), which is internationally recognized as the cornerstone of transparency, Italy’s institutions fail to satisfy citizen and media requests almost three times out of four.

Here at Diritto Di Sapere (“Right to Know”), we spent the last couple of months testing how responsive various branches of Italy’s public administration are to requests for information, in collaboration with Access-Info Europe. We filed 300 requests on matters like public expenditure, health, environment, justice, and immigration to local, regional, and federal authorities on behalf of individuals representing civil society, the media, and general public.