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Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
September 24, 2013

Right to Know (RTK) Week 2013

For the eighth year, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) is joining with other information and privacy commissioner and ombud offices from across the country in celebrating national Right to Know (RTK) Week from September 23 to 28, 2013, and international Right to Know Day on September 28, 2013. Right to Know seeks to raise awareness of individual’s right to access government information, while promoting freedom of information as essential to both democracy and good governance.

This week recognizes the importance of the public’s right to access public documents through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA), which promotes accountable government by requiring openness, accessibility and transparency. Any citizen can also access their own personal information or personal health information held by the provincial government, Crown corporations or by a local authority such as a municipality, regional health care authority, school division, college or university, under the authority of the ATIPPA or the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA).

Access to information provides individuals with the knowledge to address public issues, scrutinize government and become active participants in the democratic process. It has revealed and clarified the basis for government decisions, disclosed environmental and health dangers and shed light on error, mismanagement and illegal activities. Access to information has also required improved records management, prompted routine disclosure of information and the duty to assist the public, and resulted in better and more effective government service.

History of Right to Know
Right to Know (RTK) Day is an idea that originated in 2002 in Sofia, Bulgaria at an international meeting of access to information advocates, who proposed that September 28 be dedicated to the promotion of freedom of information worldwide. Since 2002, the popularity and scope of RTK Day has grown immensely, and celebrations now include more than 60 non-government organizations and information commissions. RTK Day is also officially celebrated in over 40 countries worldwide, and in many countries, including Canada, those celebrations have expanded into a week-long event.

Right to Know Principles
With more than 60 countries having legislation promoting access to information, and more developing such laws all the time, certain principles have emerged from the core of the RTK movement. The Open Society Justice Initiative produced the following set of 10 principles on the right to access to information, developed in consultation with partnering organizations:

The 10 Right to Know Principles:

  1. Access to information is a right of everyone.
  2. Access is the rule — secrecy is the exception!
  3. The right applies to all public bodies.
  4. Making requests should be simple, speedy, and free.
  5. Officials have a duty to assist requesters.
  6. Refusals must be justified.
  7. The public interest takes precedence over secrecy.
  8. Everyone has the right to appeal an adverse decision.
  9. Public bodies should pro-actively publish core information.
  10. The right should be guaranteed by an independent body.

Celebrating our Right to Know
The OIPC values the importance of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador being informed of their right to access information, and Right to Know gives us all an opportunity to acknowledge this important right. If you want to find out more about government priorities, gain a better understanding of issues of particular concern to you, or more actively participate in the democratic process: take advantage of your right to know!

The OIPC also encourages the provincial government, and all local authorities to take the time this RTK week to review and reaffirm support for the principles of openness, transparency and accountability within their daily practices.

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Media contact:
Ed Ring
Information and Privacy Commissioner

2013 09 24                           9:55 a.m.

Last Updated:
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