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Freedom of Information (FOI) 

Freedom of Information or access to information (ATI) - also known as the public's right to know or administrative transparency - gives citizens access to official information hold by government and other public authorities. In 1766 a Freedom of Information Law (Tryckfrihetsförordningen) was introduced in Sweden-Finland, thanks to a Finn named Anders Chydenius, who (inspired of 7th century China) fought for democracy, equality, and respect for the human rights. 1888 followed Columbia, 1919 in constitution and 1951 law in Finland (independent 1917) and 1966 in USA.

Since then more than 100 countries adopted such laws. Many countries guarantee FOI in constitutions. More thens 125 states with more then 5.9 billion inhabitants adopted FOI laws or provisions in constitutions. ATI is now firmly recognised as an internationally guaranteed human right, with decisions at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights, and global recognition by the UN Human Rights Committee. All countries in Europe have FOI laws or are preparing bills. Nearly all OECD countries and all developed countries recognize Freedom of information. gives an overview. rates laws according to international standards. Transparency was the Word of the Year 2003 and 28. September 2003 was the first "Right to Know" Day.


Articles, letters, petitions and material


Country Index

Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Council of Europe, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Estonia, European Union, Finland, Fiji, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYROM), Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Nigeria, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Trinidad und Tobago, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uzbekistan.

Global Trends

The global trends on the right to information are investigated by ARTICLE 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression. Considering both laws and constitutions FOI is widely recognized as human right. gives an overview. FOI is based on

FOI in constitutions gives an overview on constitutional protection of the right to information: In Sweden - with longest tradition - FOI is found in the Constitution  (Chapter 2, Article 1 (2)). The constitutions of many other countries i. e. Albania (Art. 23), Belarus (Art. 34), Belgium (Art. 32), Bulgaria (Art. 41), Croatia (only for journalists: Art. 38), Czech Republic (Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms: Art. 17)Estonia (Art. 44),  Finland (Constitution, Section 12), Georgia (Art. 41), Hungary (Art. 61), Lithuania (Art. 25), Macedonia (Art. 16), Moldavia (Art. 34),  Netherlands (Art. 110), Poland (Art. 61), Portugal (Art. 268), Rumania (Art. 31), Russian Federation (Art. 29), Slovenia (Art. 39), Slovakia (Art. 26), Spain (Art. 105 b), Argentina (Art. 43), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi (Art. 37), Mongolia (Art. 16, 17)Mozambique (Art. 74), Nepal (Art. 16), Panama (Art. 42,43,44), the Philippines (Art. III, Sec. 7), Peru (Art. 200(3)),  the Republic of South Africa (sec. 16), Tanzania (Art. 18(2)), TajikistanThailand (Sec. 58),  and  Turkmenistan (26) all guarantee the right to access information held by the State.

FOI in Europe with map


Name with Link


Parliamentary Assembly, 1979

Parliamentary Assembly, Recommendation 854 (1979) on access by the public to government records and freedom of information


Council of Europe, 1981

"Recommendation No. R (81) 19" on the access to information held by public authorities


Parliamentary Assembly, 1986

Recommendation 1037 (1986). On Data Protection and Freedom of Information


EU, 1997 (Amsterdam)

Treaty establishing the European Community (signed in Rome on 25 March 1957), consolidated version: Article 255


UNECE, 1998

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe: Environmental Matters: The Aarhus Convention:


EU, 2000

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, (2000/C 364/01):


Council of Europe, 2002

Recommendation Rec(2002)2 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on access to official documents:


European Court for Human Rights, 2006

Rechtssache Sdruženi Jihoceské Matky gegen Tschechische Republik, Antrag Nr. 19101/03 vom 10. Juli 2006:


Council of Europe, 2006

Binding Convention. CDDH: Project 2004/DG2/74 “Guaranteeing the right of the public to have access to official documents”:


Council of Europe, 27. November 2008

Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 27 November 2008 at the 1042bis meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)


The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights gives a right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
FOI laws came first to Scandinavia (Sweden (1766), Finland, Norway, Denmark and Island), then to English speaking countries (USA (1966), IrelandEngland (UK)) and at last to German speaking countries (Austria (1986), Switzerland und Germany).

FOI laws in other European countries are collected here. Germany still lacks Freedom of Information in 5 of 16 states as nearly the only major country in Europe.

Links to other sites on Freedom of Information

Support Freedom of Information for European Institutions: Call for an "Open Europe" (Statewatch)

Freedom of Information came 1766 to Sweden, 1951 to Finland1966 to den USA, 1970 to Norway and 1985 to Denmark In 1981 the Council of Europe gave "Recommendation No. R (81) 19" on the access to information held by public authorities. A new Recommendation Rec(2002)2 was adopted 2002. Both EU and nearly all countries in the EU and Europe adopted such laws. However citizen rights vary and there are no minimum standards. In order to keep up with the international development freedom of information should be strengthened in EU member states. Here is a petition to the European Parliament.

Support Freedom of Information, by the following call of Statewatch (click here):
I/We support the call to EU institutions for a democratic and accountable "Open Europe" on access to documents.

Support FOI by E-Mail to the Federal Government in Germany

Freedom of Information came 1951 to Finland, 1766 (1949) to Sweden, 1966 to den USA, 1970 to Norway and 1985 to Denmark. In 1981 the Council of Europe gave "Recommendation No. R (81) 19" on the access to information held by public authorities. Germany is the only country in the EU without such a law. In order to keep up with the international development freedom of information should also be adopted in Germany.

Support the German Freedom of Information Law, by the following E-Mail to the German Government (click here):
I support the call to the German Government for a democratic and accountable Freedom of Information Law on access to public documents.

(You may change the text according to your needs).

Support FOI by E-Mail to the Federal States (=Bundesländer) in Germany 

The Federal Republic of Germany is the only country in the EU without FOI. But 11 of 16 federal federal states (Bundesländer) Brandenburg, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saarland, Hamburg, Thuringia and Rheinland-Pfalz have adopted FOI. Opposition parties in the states of  Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt have suggested FOI laws. Unfortunately parliaments in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse and Saxony have voted against FOI laws.

Support the Freedom of Information laws in the states of: Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt with the following E-Mail:
I support the call to the German Federal State (Bundesland) Government for a democratic and accountable Freedom of Information Law on access to public documents.
(This E-Mails is send to the parties governing the state, with a copy to the opposition suggesting the FOI law. You may change the text according to your needs).

Warning: I do not accept any liability that the information on these pages is correct, accurate or up to date!

Please feel free to link this site!

Thanks to all, who gave me this information. Please do not hesitate to mail me if you have additional information.

Visitor No. since 2. January 2002

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