We at CORRECTIV are experts when it comes to freedom of information and freedom of information rights. For years, our staff has fought to make German authorities and administrations more transparent. Now, we’re taking it one step further: we will not only use these access rights journalistically, but show you as citizens how you can obtain important information yourselves.
The work of representatives and public officials can best be judged if it is transparent. Transparency and accountability also considerably reduce the chances of backdoor deals that profit a few, but hurt us all.
Public officials work for a single goal: to serve us citizens. Every piece of information, every document and every record in a public authority belong to those who pay for them: us citizens. Essentially, everything that happens in government offices must be public information. Certain pieces of information can only be kept secret if substantial reasons against full transparency exist.
Everything must be transparent
If information is held back, government agencies and administrations are required to justify their decision in a clear and plausible way. Non-disclosure is only justified if this explanation is conclusive and understandable for everyone. The same also applies to organizations that are financed through tax money. These include privatized utility companies, garbage collection services and scientific institutions whose research is financed through taxes. Abuse of power and government wastefulness can only be revealed – and hopefully be avoided altogether – if information is made public.
Since 2005, Germany has a Freedom of Information Law that guarantees transparency. It is accompanied by a range of other regulations that help citizens gain access to information. However, some authorities still consider information, documents and data their property. We want to change this.
Access rights such as the Freedom of Information Law are not just sources for journalistic research, but a fundamental means to strengthen democracy. If these rights are restricted, it’s a reflection of our principles as a society. If they’re expanded, everyone profits. We have therefore made it our purpose to strengthen and spread information rights in cooperation with other organizations. We want to pave a path for others. The more people claim the information they have a right to access, the sooner transparency will become an everyday thing.
More information for all citizens
In the USA, hundreds of thousands of requests are filed each year based on the Freedom of Information Act. The act, almost 50 years old, isn’t perfect yet, but is surely better used. It is part of a lot of journalist’s daily routine and normal citizens are better informed about their rights. Here in Germany, however, only a couple of thousand requests are filed each year. Mostly by lawyers, for companies.
We want more freedom of information for all citizens. As members of CORRECTIV, it is our mission to help you establish and enforce your rights. If you are looking for information from your local public offices, ask us for help. We’re glad to assist you in any way possible. Together, we can work towards a more transparent world.