70 mins

The right to information for human rights advocacy

Centre for Law and Democracy
This course introduces participants, mainly journalists and civil society advocates, to the right to information (or right to access information held by public officials), how to use that right to advance freedom of expression and other human rights, and how to advocate for strong protection for this right.
About this course:
Providing for the right to access information from public authorities (or the right to information) is a key enabling right for democratic progress, advocacy work, effective participation and keeping public authorities accountable. It enables people to make informed choices and to engage effectively with the public authorities that represent them and serve as custodians of public services. Without the right to information, power holders are less accountable and have fewer checks and balances on their actions.
What do I learn:
This course highlights the regional and international human rights obligations of States and the public authorities which comprise them to put in place an enabling legal environment to empower individuals, civil society organisations, the media and others to access public information. The course also highlights the practical means to make and follow-up on requests, taking into account that although access is a right, oftentimes public authorities seek to obstruct it. This includes a session on exceptions, to help participants understand what may and may not legitimately be withheld.
What do I need to know:
You will get more from this course if you come in having some basic understanding of the core concepts regarding the right to information. You should know whether or not the country you live and work in has adopted a right to information law and, if so, how, broadly speaking, it works (or, if not, whether there are efforts to advocate for one).


Toby Mendel

Toby Mendel is the founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), based in Halifax, Canada. CLD works to promote, protect and develop those human rights which serve as the foundation for or underpin democracy, including the rights to freedom of expression, to vote and participate in governance, to access information and to freedom of assembly and association.

1.1 Introduction to the course
1.2 Introduction to the right to information
2.1 Key principles governing the right to information
2.2 Key framework of a strong RTI law
2.3 International and regional RTI instruments
2.4 Assessing RTI through ratings
3.1 Basic outline for how you make a request for information
3.2 Some key tips to improve your request
3.3 Issues in law to look out for when making a request
3.4 Some likely scenarios and responses when making a request
3.5 Quiz
4.1 Overview of international standards regarding exceptions (Pakistan case study)
4.2 Case study: Overview of international standards regarding exceptions
4.3 Elaboration of the three-part test for exceptions
4.4 Key challenges of applying exceptions in practice
4.5 Table of common exceptions
4.6 Quiz
5.1 Key reasons why you may need an appeal
5.2 Overview of the key options for appeals
5.3 Features of national levels of appeals
5.4 What you need to include in an appeal to make it more effective
5.5 Options for appeal beyond the national level
6.1 Advocacy approaches that have proven useful in trying to get a right to information l
6.2 Actions to improve RTI implementation
6.3 Highlights of some of the work civil society is doing in other countries
6.4 An example of successful grassroots use of RTI from India
6.5 Quiz
7.1 Conclusion

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