Killing FOI

(I have left this comment at Andy Revkin’s “A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists”)

Andy – I’m very surprised by the phrasing of your FOI question. So what if there is “fishing” involved?

The important bit about FOI is that it applies no matter what the intentions of the requester are.

Otherwise every Government agency will always argue FOI exemption by claiming the requester is “fishing” for information. And especially so if the requester is a journalist (who is presumed to be looking for something to publish, therefore pretty much single-mindedly interested in “fishing”).

Intention-dependent FOI is not freedom, rather a gracious (and always temporary) concession on the part of the State. It’s like trying to define as democratic a Parliament you can vote for only if invited to the electoral polls.

Are you sure decades of struggle to get FOI in place should be considered as wasted just to defend publicly-funded scientists who can’t understand their rights and duties, and pretend FOI is a waste of time when in reality it’s a clerical activity?

ps I’ve been subject to FOI In the past and anything I write at work can potentially be used in a court of law

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  1. diogenes
    2012/01/26 at 18:00

    In the UK, we are in danger of easing step-by-step into a culture where the cult of the so-called expert, “the man in Whitehall knows best”, tries to wrest back the power that Select Committees and FOIA have manged to prise out of the Executive. It is a move that must be resisted.

  2. 2012/01/26 at 10:59

    There seems an odd (in that it is idiotic, and clearly tanking) mindset in official quarters on matters of accountability to the public in areas the public is called upon to fund.

    Clearly, if a semantic distinction, any request for information could be deemed, by the target, as ‘fishing’. That is, in itself, no excuse for rejection, especially in trying to hide rules of their own creation to justify doing so, based on their selected terminology.

    The BBC is also at it. Only the ‘get out of answering further questions free’ card they are now deploying is ‘bad faith’. Applied even to simple repeats of questions when they remain unanswered.

    They appear to feel it is a game. Not sure it is one that will be won with such tactics.

  3. 2012/01/26 at 10:00

    I thought that a FOI request was fishing for information. The reason being that insufficient data is available to justify the agency’s decisions. Publicly funded science is just that, Public so must be open to inspection. Refusal to release data is taunt amount to hiding the truth to preach lies.

  4. 2012/01/26 at 00:23

    There’s some odd stuff bobbing to the surface around and about, and while in isolation it is irritating, in combination it is downright spooky.

    In so many days I am reading of others being subjected to an “expedited complaints handling procedure” by the publicly funded national broadcaster.

    It appears to mean that the BBC can no longer be bothered even pretending to answer questions on what they are up to. This from an entity that already uses public funds in legal defences to prevent the public finding out what it is paying for.

    Not, I would suggest, an ideal set of affairs all round.

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