FOI brings new opportunities for investigative journalism

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 could open the floodgates to a new era of investigative journalism, according to The Herald: "Anyone can now ask to see any information held by a public body, including everything from services contracts to minutes of meetings through to even e-mails between staff. If Kevin Dunion, Scotland’s Information Commissioner, interprets the act’s exceptions narrowly, it could lead to important revelations about subjects, such as the cost of the Scottish parliament, the Chinook disaster and the Piper Alpha explosion. In a country of decreasing newspaper sales, this could provide a welcome shot in the arm at the news stands in the year ahead."

Greater freedom of information, radio consolidation … and more free papers? (Sunday Herald, 2 January 2005)

This view seems to be at odds with the generally negative reaction from the media to the comments of Lord Falconer:

"... government departments will publish the answers to requests for information that is of general interest on their websites as well as making them available to the original requester [...] This approach, which has been approved by the cabinet, is also strongly supported by the independent information commissioner, Richard Thomas.

Some members of the media seem to be taking what might be seen as a more partisan view, arguing that responses to their inquiries made under FOI should be kept secret for them. They suggest that simultaneous publication will undo their investigations.

I find this response hard to fathom. Surely media organisations, for so long campaigners for open government and for freedom of information, cannot be suggesting that their own commercial interests are of greater importance to them than the public's right to know? They cannot be suggesting that the stories their commercial rivals would not otherwise have are more important to them than openness and transparency?"

Farewell to the blight of secrecy (The Guardian, 29 December 2004)