In a guest post for OJB, Anna Noble interviews FOI expert Matt Burgess.
In just 4 years Matt Burgess has already built up an impressive reputation in the media industry. The founder of FOI directory, a site which covers FOI policy, curates the best FOI stories, and provides directories of FOI emails, and the author of a book on the subject, his journalistic career has ranged from a local press agency and a crowdsourcing project to specialist publishing, and now technology bible Wired.Continue reading →
A natural companion to Heather Brooke’s introductory Your Right To Know, FOIA Without the Lawyer addresses the challenges that come after the FOI is submitted: the niggling exemptions and excuses used by public bodies to avoid supplying information requested under the Act. Continue reading →
So, the commission that has been formed to look into Freedom of Information in the UK is worrying a lot of people, particularly journalists. From the selection of its members and lack of transparency to suggestions of vetoes and charges, there’s a strong signal of an intention to curtail the ‘free’ in ‘freedom’.
David Higgerson writes about some depressing recent developments – and equally depressing wider trends – around the lack of transparency in public office and public spending. It’s worth reading:
“The reason this is so important now is because we are on the cusp of another wave of political restructuring. Devolution is on its way to Greater Manchester, and to other major city regions too. Whether you believe this is a good thing or not, there is hopefully no denying that with such major power moves there has to also be a cast-iron guarantee that those making decisions will be accountable.”
If you’re using FOI to ask questions about public services involving private companies it’s quite common to be refused on the basis of ‘commercial sensitivity‘ or ‘breach of confidence‘.
In fact, I’d suggest anticipating this in your initial request – or at the very least pushing for details when you receive any initial refusal.
Both exemptions are often misused by authorities as a ‘catch-all’ reason to fob off a requestor.
But neither exemption is simple, and both have a public interest test element which the authority is supposed to have thought through. In brief there are two things you can do to help your request: Continue reading →