Understanding Why Access to Information Laws are Often Controversial

January 12, 2015

Many democratic nations put in place ‘access to information’ laws. But the said laws are often controversial. We venture to identify the reasons as to why the access to information laws are often controversial.

The first reason as to why access to information laws are often controversial is in the fact that these laws are often in conflict with national security interests. This is where we often hear about the balance between ‘what the people want to know’ and ‘what the people need to know’.

The second reason as to why access to information laws are often controversial is in the fact that these laws are often at loggerheads with the interests of certain people. This can get more problematic if the people who are potentially inconvenienced by the laws happen to be powerful people (as is indeed often the case).

The third reason as to why access to information laws are often controversial is in the fact that their enforcement can be rather hard. The enforcement becomes particularly hard when the information that is being requested is of a sensitive nature. Things become even more complicated if the agency requesting the information is one that is not particularly powerful, as its requests are likely to be simply ignored. But then again, even a powerful but foreign agency can have difficulties requesting for information under the access to information laws. Thus, for instance, reporters from a news corporation like, say, the BBC may have difficulties requesting for information from a given country. That would be the case, especially if that information is seen as being potentially sensitive within the framework of geo-politics, where suspicions often abound.