Report No. 275
a. Right to Information as a Human Right
4.5 The existence of a right to have access to government information is increasingly accepted around the world, both at the domestic and international levels. With countries such as Mexico and Paraguay designating the 'right to information' as the "human right of access to information". At the domestic level, a right to information was seen to be finding its place in the Constitutional law of several nations, and since the early 1990s, there has been a huge upsurge in the number of States adopting Freedom of Information laws.45
4.6 There is now widespread acceptance of the right to information being an essential part of free expression; found in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the regional human rights treaties in Africa and the Americas.46
4.7 The right to information has been frequently endorsed by international human rights treaties, as coming within the scope of right to expression. Such bodies have, however, based their recognition of a right to information on the enjoyment of other rights as well, i.e. the right to respect for private life; the right to a fair trial; the right to life; social and economic rights; and the right to take part in public affairs.47
4.8 Right to freedom of expression has been relied upon as the umbrella right for the right to information. And, nearly all international human rights treaties emphasise on protecting this right.48
4.9 The right to information is a basic right that buttresses good governance, democracy and the practical realisation of human rights. Good governance is not achieved simply by having efficient government or even a democratically elected government. Freedom of information and the assurance of widespread citizen participation in public affairs and an active civil society are essential for the full realisation of democracy and to develop a culture of human rights and accountability.49
The recognition of right to information is crucial for achieving these ends, hence there is a need for a guaranteed and legislated right to information. Internationally, the legislations on access to information are known as 'Freedom of Information laws'.
4.10 This distinction may appear semantical, however, it is a crucial one and cannot be ignored. It must be kept in mind that the term 'rights' in general implies corresponding duties. The 'citizens' right to information' casts a duty on the Government to ensure that information sought for is provided. The term 'Freedom', on the other hand, does not convey a clear sense of duty on the Government to provide information to the public.