People’s right to information has been widely accepted as a basic prerequisite for the effective functioning of a democracy. Over 40 countries across the world have comprehensive laws to facilitate access to state records and more than 30 are in the process of enacting such legislation. Although freedom of information laws have existed since 1776, when Sweden passed its Freedom of the Press Act, the last decade has seen an unprecedented number of countries adopting access to information legislation. There are several reasons for this trend:
- Since the 1980s, the emergence of new democracies has given rise to new constitutions that include specific guarantees of the right to information.
- There has been agitation from media and civil society groups, for greater access to information held by the Government and for more participation in governance.
- Finally, several international bodies have been promoting freedom of information, and donor organizations have been encouraging countries to adopt access to information laws, as part of an effort to increase Government transparency and reduce corruption.
A list of other countries in the world which have their own legislation to grant the right to information to their citizens is available here.