Freedom of Information too expensive

According to today’s Sunday Independent, “TEN years ago, Freedom of Information was introduced to end Ireland’s culture of secrecy and to promote “open government”. However, since then, as a result of sneaky amendments and last-minute law changes, the system has been largely sabotaged, to the point where it’s not working…the system of Freedom of Information (FoI) is not only failing but failing badly. Applying for records under the Government’s much-vaunted commitment to transparency and accountability has proved expensive and frustrating, to the point where fewer and fewer people are applying. It is now more difficult and more expensive to get information than ever before.”

“..Crucially, as part of new amendments fees were introduced for the use of FoI. People requesting information now had to pay €15 in advance for non-personal information. Internal and external appeals of a decision on such a request cost €75 and €150.Medical card holders are given discounted rates. …However, it is now widely acknowledged that the introduction of fees has caused the number of applications to plummet. In 2002, the last full year without fees, 7,936 requests were made, compared to just over 3,000 in 2005. The Information Commissioner has said that the most worrying aspect of this is the fall-off in requests from journalists. Ms O’Reilly told a conference before Christmas that in 2002, before fees were introduced there were 2,103 requests from journalists, compared to 963 in 2005. O’Reilly said: “I would suggest that as a society we should be seeking to encourage greater levels of engagement with ‘government’ by members of the public. The figures show that since 2003 such engagement has declined dramatically.”

Read the whole article here: Quiet changes that sabotage Freedom of Information and keep us in the dark