18 March 2014

This is “Sunshine Week” in the United States, adopted by media and public interest  groups as a marker of open government.  The week began with the celebration of Freedom of Information Day on 16  March, the anniversary of the birth of James Madison (Fourth US President), considered the Founding Father of Freedom of Information.

This enthusiasm for the ideal is rather more challenged in reality.  The annual World Press Freedom Index published last month indicates that press freedom in  the United States continues to deteriorate, slipping 13 places since the 2013 index to 46th of the 160 countries assessed.

Finland remains at the top of the Index where it has ranked since 2010, and the others in the top ten are Scandinavian and “Scandinavian-like” countries. New Zealand is in 9th place (slipping from 8th in 2013).  Australia is ranked 28th (down from 26th), and the United Kingdom is 33rd (down from 29th).  These movements may reflect the changed methodology used for the 2014 Index, although Denmark was the only other country  in the top ten rankings  that slipped a place.

The Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders, assesses the degree to which journalists and the media have freedom to report, and the commitment of national authorities to ensure respect for that freedom.

All New Zealand departments are being surveyed this week on their adoption of the 2011 Declaration on Open and Transparent Government. Responses are “expected to provide useful data on whether the release of high-value public data for re-use has become a business-as-usual practice, what mechanisms departments are using to find out what data their users identify as high value, and what impact that release has had.”  The findings will be reported to Cabinet later in the year.

2014 World Press Freedom Index

1 Finland
2 Netherlands
3 Norway
4 Luxembourg
5 Andorra
6 Liechtenstein
7 Denmark
8 Iceland
9 New Zealand
10 Sweden