The Right to Information in Times of Crisis

28 September 2021

Access to Information Ц Saving Lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope! Issue brief in the UNESCO series: World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development

Key Highlights:
  • Public access to information serves public health and economic goals and should be seen as part of the response and not as an external burden.
  • The right to information is a fundamental human right. The experience of many countries shows that it is possible to maintain the right to information systems during a health emergency.
  • States are under a positive obligation to disclose on a proactive basis key emergency-related health, budgetary, policy-making, procurement, economic, benefits-related, and other information.
  • A health emergency may result in logistical barriers to the processing of requests for information, such as an inability to access physical documents or to provide information to requesters who are not digitally enabled. Workarounds should, as far as possible, be sought to this.
  • The view that public authorities are too busy to process requests for information during a health emergency can be addressed, in part, by extensive proactive disclosure as a way to limit the volume of requests.
  • Digital technologies provide robust means to maintain right to information systems during health emergencies. Building on lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic, States should put in place robust digital systems for the right to information, including in preparation for possible crises.
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CI Response to pandemic; access to information

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