World Journalists Welcome UK Decision to Scrap Plans to Weaken Law on Freedom of Information

The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) has welcomed the British government’s decisions to scrap plans that would have weakened the country’s open government rules following a vigorous campaign of opposition by its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other freedom of information advocates.

“This is major victory for the NUJ and freedom of information organisations which campaigned for months to convince the new administration to scrap the proposals” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “The proposed plans would have severely undermined the legislation.”

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced that he will withdraw plans laid by the previous government of Tony Blair to restrict the Freedom of Information Act, a law which has only been on the statute book for two years. Blair had wanted to make two major changes to the FOI fees regulations that would have made it easier for public authorities to refuse requests for information on costs grounds. It would also have restricted the amount of information available under the legislation.

A government report had found that up to 20,000 requests presently dealt with by public authorities could have been refused on cost grounds under the proposals. The IFJ and the NUJ noted and welcomed the results of the government announcement which:

• Abandons changes to the Freedom of Information Act that would have made it harder for journalists to secure information from government local authorities and other public bodies;

• Ditches plans to restrict media access to coroners' courts;

• Plans to consult on opening up yet more bodies that perform public functions to the Freedom of Information Act.

“Although the announcement is to be welcomed, the campaign to open government must continue, such as the lowering of the 30-year rule on publishing government’s document and bringing more public functions within the scope of the Act.” added Boumelha.

For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide