More than ever, the right to know ranks as a priority with democratic people, from emerging nations in Africa to struggling democracies in Europe to U.S. Senators debating the bipartisan Freedom of Information Act. Political and social structures are overwhelmed by information and telecommunications technology that pose both solutions and threats to the people’s right to know.
The goal of International Right to Know Day, celebrated each year on September 28, is to raise awareness of every individual’s right of access to information produced and/or held by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. While secrets and surveillance grab the headlines, the right to know encompasses the people’s right to lift the bureaucratic veil from information about a host of critical issues — campaign expenditures, who sets the research agenda, who pays what taxes, how taxes collected are spent, clean water, climate change, consumer products, public health, services for people with disabilities, prescription and over the counter drugs, rail safety – in truth, virtually every issue faced by residents of a democracy has right to know implications. Information that is accessible is the coin of the realm of a democratic society responsible for holding its government accountable.
International Right to Know Day was established on September 28, 2002 to commemorate the establishment of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network. Representatives of 15 nations participated – Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, India, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Rumania, Slovakia, South Africa and US.
A dozen years later it’s worth recalling that list of organizers and assessing the growth of the collaboration. Today the members of the FOI Advocates Network include over 200 organizations and civil society organizations representing every continent on the globe. Members of the network exchange knowledge and experience as well as initiate efforts to improve standards and practices that assure the public’s right to know.
To celebrate International Right to Know Day each nation, each civil society organization, creates a unique approach – everything from academic conferences to award (including absurd awards) ceremonies and pop concerts. In some countries RTK Day has morphed to Right to Know Week. In fact, music has been composed especially for the occasion. The stories are best told on the Right to Know Day map and collage designed by the FOIA Network. https://www.google.com/search?q=right+to+know+day+map+2014&client=safari&rls=en&biw=1553&bih=999&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=-FYbVJ7WLoLtoASC4YCgBQ&ved=0CCcQsAQ)
Everything you ever wanted to know about Right to Know Day (and were afraid to ask?) can be found at www.foiadvocates.net.