Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Law - Freedom of Information

This week we had Panorama undercover reporter Claudia Murg in to discuss investigative journalism and to 
tell us of her experiences in the field with Panorama, and how she uncovered the then poor showing by the immigration sector at ports and coastal areas. 

Anybody can make an FOI request to any public authority, except from UK security and intelligence forces who are not allowed to hand over information if an FOI is made to them. Every other organisation must give you information or respond to an FOI request.

Requests can be waiting for some time, and especially if requests written out are not specific enough and if not specific enough then the company can respond and ask you to refine your search before they give any information. 

If the request is specific then the company has 20 days to return the information to you, or if they do not send information to you then a reason must be given as to why the request has not been given a informative response within in the 20 days. If the request is not specific enough then this would be a fair enough reason for them to not send over the information because it is not specific enough.

FOI requests are usually free for nearly all companies. However, there are some exceptions, and these are if retrieving the information costs more than £600 or if it is more than £450 for local councils. 

The Freedom of Information Act 2000, which came officially into effect in 2005 became the UK's first right of access to information held by departments run by the Government and other public authorities within the UK. 

This has been a revelation for Journalists because it has the potential to release some huge, exclusive, and interesting stories, including the Government. 

Around 100,000 major and minor bodies in the public sector are covered by the Act including the Home Office, Foreign Office, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the armed forces, national park authorities, universities, schools and colleges, the NHS, and local governmental authorities plus some many more. 

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