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Friday, December 02, 2016

Freedom of Information: 250 years since Sweden laid the first cornerstone

On 2 December 1766 Sweden enacted what is regarded as the first freedom of information law.

The most recent translation into English was done by Ian Giles and Peter Graves, Scandinavian Studies, University of Edinburgh and released on 7th October 2016 in Edinburgh.

The Australian information commissioners and the New Zealand Ombudsman have issued the  statement below to mark the occasion.

From the Australian perspective as we wait for release of the government's first Open Government Partnership National Action, thought to be next week, let's hope for a commitment to necessary reforms that truly recognises the right to access government information "is a cornerstone of modern democratic society." 

Cornerstone- a foundation stone, mainstay, linchpin, centrepiece, core, heart, backbone, anchor.

Submissions on this aspect of the draft commitment released by the government for public comment on 31 October suggested the cornerstone is in need of close inspection, fundamental repair and some design work to make it fit for the 21st century.

Joint Media Statement

"The right to access government held information and our ongoing commitment to Open Government is a cornerstone of modern democratic society. 


We mark the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the first freedom of information legislation on 2 December 2016. We do this to acknowledge the important contribution that freedom of information has made to the effectiveness of democratic government across the world since 1766. Freedom of information enables citizens to access information held by governments and their agencies. Having access to Government held information is critical to citizens being able to meaningfully participate in Government decision making.

Access to information and participation in government processes contributes to the transparency of government – promoting better decision making, accountability and greater public trust. This is the key contribution freedom of information has to make to our modern democratic government."

Co-signed by:

Sven Bluemmel, Western Australian Information Commissioner

Richard Connock, Tasmania’s Ombudsman

Michael Ison, Acting Victorian Freedom of Information Commissioner

Wayne Lines, South Australia’s Ombudsman

Brenda Monaghan, Northern Territory Information Commissioner

Timothy Pilgrim, PSM, Australian Information Commissioner

Jenny Mead, Acting Queensland Information Commissioner

Elizabeth Tydd, NSW Information Commissioner and Open Data Advocate

Judge Peter Boshier, New Zealand Chief Ombudsman

Leo Donnelly, New Zealand Ombudsman



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