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This topic contains 2 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Henry Brown 5 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #179220

    Henry Brown
    Participant

    Title: Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information

    Introduction:

    These Principles were developed in order to provide guidance to those engaged in drafting, revising, or implementing laws or provisions relating to the state’s authority to withhold information on national security grounds or to punish the disclosure of such information.

    They are based on international (including regional) and national law, standards, good practices, and the writings of experts.

    They address national security—rather than all grounds for withholding information. All other public grounds for restricting access should at least meet these standards.

    These Principles were drafted by 22 organizations and academic centres (listed in the Annex) in consultation with more than 500 experts from more than 70 countries at 14 meetings held around the world, facilitated by the Open Society Justice Initiative, and in consultation with the four special rapporteurs on freedom of expression and/or media freedom and the special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights:

    • the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression,
    • the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights,
    • the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information,
    • the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, and
    • the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media.

    Background and Rationale

    National security and the public’s right to know are often viewed as pulling in opposite directions. While there is at times a tension between a government’s desire to keep information secret on national security grounds and the public’s right to information held by public authorities, a clear-eyed review of recent history suggests that legitimate national security interests are, in practice, best protected when the public is well informed about the state’s activities, including those undertaken to protect national security.

    Access to information, by enabling public scrutiny of state action, not only safeguards against abuse by public officials but also permits the public to play a role in determining the policies of the state and thereby forms a crucial component of genuine national security, democratic participation, and sound policy formulation. In order to protect the full exercise of human rights, in certain circumstances it may be necessary to keep information secret to protect legitimate national security interests.

    Striking the right balance is made all the more challenging by the fact that courts in many countries demonstrate the least independence and greatest deference to the claims of government when national security is invoked. This deference is reinforced by provisions in the security laws of many countries that trigger exceptions to the right to information as well as to ordinary rules of evidence and rights of the accused upon a minimal showing, or even the mere assertion by the government, of a national security risk. A government’s over-invocation of national security concerns can seriously undermine the main institutional safeguards against government abuse: independence of the courts, the rule of law, legislative oversight, media freedom, and open government.

    These Principles respond to the above-described longstanding challenges as well as to the fact that, in recent years, a significant number of states around the world have embarked on adopting or revising classification regimes and related laws. This trend in turn has been sparked by several developments. Perhaps most significant has been the rapid adoption of access to information laws since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the result that, as of the date that these Principles were issued, more than 5.2 billion people in 95 countries around the world enjoy the right of access to information—at least in law, if not in practice. People in these countries are—often for the first time—grappling with the question of whether and under what circumstances information may be kept secret. Other developments contributing to an increase in proposed secrecy legislation have been government responses to terrorism or the threat of terrorism, and an interest in having secrecy regulated by law in the context of democratic transitions.

    Download the 35 page document:

  • #179225

    Henry Brown
    Participant

    Commentary from the Open Society Foundation

    The Global Principles on National Security and Freedom of Information (The Tshwane Principles)

    The Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information were developed in order to provide guidance to those engaged in drafting, revising, or implementing laws or provisions relating to the state’s authority to withhold information on national security grounds or to punish the disclosure of such information.

    They are based on international (including regional) and national law, standards, good practices, and the writings of experts.

    They address national security—rather than all grounds for withholding information. All other public grounds for restricting access should at least meet these standards.

    These Principles were drafted by 22 organizations and academic centres (listed in the Annex) in consultation with more than 500 experts from more than 70 countries at 14 meetings held around the world, facilitated by the Open Society Justice Initiative. This process culminated in a meeting in Tshwane, South Africa, which gives them their name.

  • #179223

    Henry Brown
    Participant

    Commentary from Steven Aftergood’s blog on FAS

    While almost everyone would agree that national security secrecy has a role to play in an open society, such secrecy must be carefully circumscribed if robust public access to government information is to be preserved. A set of principles that open societies around the world can use to help guide and limit the application of secrecy was published this week.

    The new Principles on National Security and the Right to Know were generated by an international group of scholars, government officials, activists and others convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative in an attempt to define a global consensus on national security secrecy and to aid legislators and citizens around the world who may be new to the subject.

    The Principles present guidance on specific types of information that the drafters believe may legitimately be withheld from disclosure on national security grounds (e.g. current war plans), as well as categories of information that should not be withheld on national security grounds “in any circumstances” (e.g. information on gross violations of human rights).

    The Principles are the product of an international initiative, and they are not the same as U.S. policy writ large. In fact, some of the Principles are inconsistent with current U.S. government practice.

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