Freedom of Information in Asia-Pacific

In Asia-Pacific, diverse Member States are undergoing different stages in the road to guaranteeing the public’s full enjoyment of freedom of information.

Countries like Australia and New Zealand passed a national FOI law as early as in 1982 (prior to the latest wave of FOI laws’ adoption around the world), later embarking upon legislative reform to bring their freedom of information regimes up to date. Furthermore, if one shifts the focus to South Asia, national FOI legislation in India (passed in 2005) is often cited to exemplify the role that grassroots groups can have in the adoption of this type of legislation, as well as the effect that the exercise of freedom of information can have on people’s lives. Nevertheless, the experience of India is also very telling of the challenges during the implementation phase, among others related to bureaucratic resistances, shortcomings in the capacity of public officials, insufficient public awareness, and need to strengthen compliance with proactive disclosure obligations and ensure coherence with other legislation (for assessments on the case of FOI in India, you can read here, here and here). In turn, FOI laws have recently been passed or entered into force in countries like Mongolia (FOI law passed in 2011), Bangladesh (legislation in force since 2009), and Indonesia (a FOI law is in force since 2010), and draft FOI laws are under discussion in a number of others.  

The information above does not aim to provide an exhaustive overview of freedom of information in a region as vast and diverse as Asia-Pacific, instead presenting a few examples. For a more detailed survey on where different Member States stand in regard to FOI legislation in Asia-Pacific, this international survey may be a useful reference. Also, see the country chapters on India, Kyrgyzstan, Thailand and Japan in Toby Mendel’s “Freedom of Information: a Comparative Legal Survey”, published by UNESCO.

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