The ‘Right to Know’ Day celebrates once a year the right of individuals to access information held by public bodies and marks the benefits of transparent, accessible government.
The idea began in 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria at an international meeting of access to information advocates, who proposed that September 28th be dedicated to the promotion of freedom of information worldwide.
Since 2002, the popularity and scope of the Right to Know Day has grown immensely and celebrations now include more than 60 non-governmental organizations and information commissions/commissioners. The day is also celebrated officially in over 40 nations worldwide and in many countries those celebrations have expanded into a week-long event.
Some of the festivities that have taken place in the past to commemorate the Day include conferences and debates involving government officials, NGOs and others; workshops; release of special reports and studies on ATI-related topics; and awards in recognition of those who support ATI rights.
Over 60 countries now have legislation promoting access to information, and more countries are in the process of developing such laws. Countries where Right to Know Day has been commemorated include Argentina, Canada, Czech Republic, El Salvador, India, Jamaica, Latvia, Mexico, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Peru, Spain, Turkey and the USA.
Over the years, certain principles have emerged that form the core of the Right to Know movement. They are expressed well by the Open Society Justice Initiative, formed with other organizations in honour of the Right to Know Day celebrations in 2003.
These ten principles are:
- Access to information is a right of everyone
- Access is the rule—secrecy is the exception
- The right applies to all public bodies
- Making requests should be simple, speedy, and free
- Officials have a duty to assist requesters
- Refusals must be justified
- The public interest takes precedence over secrecy
- Everyone has the right to appeal an adverse decision
- Public bodies should pro-actively publish core information
- The right should be guaranteed by an independent body