The case for ensuring access to information is that it supports good governance, effective and efficient public administration, compliance with laws and regulations, efforts to combat corruption and better investment climates. There is emerging evidence to support this, however there remains a lack of systematic assessments of RTI policies and whether and how they are translating into greater government transparency and participation in decision-making (Calland, 2010).
Open, participatory and accountable government is contingent on members of the public having access to information held by public bodies. The right to information is protected through the guarantees of freedom of expression found in the main international human rights treaties. This has been recognised by international human rights tribunals (Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights) and leading international authorities (including all four special mandates on freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, and the Inter-American Juridical Committee) as well as the UN Human Rights Committee (Mendel, 2008).
A key principle of Right to Information is that of ‘maximum disclosure’’. Information should only be withheld from the public where absolutely necessary to prevent harm to a legitimate interest and where there is no overriding public interest in knowing the information.
As of June 2013, 95 countries have adopted RTI laws, a massive increase from the 13 countries which had these laws in 1990. However, experience has shown that while the passage of the law is often a high-profile effort by its political champions, the key challenge is to maintain the political momentum needed for effective implementation (Dokenia, 2013).