FOI scholarship reflects a return to secrecy

  • Greg Treadwell
Keywords: freedom of information, New Zealand, Official Information Act, open government partnership, state secrecy, transparency


When Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto launched the third summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in October 2015, protesters disputed his highly scripted account of his government’s transparency. The OGP may be growing but increasingly scholars and journalists are reporting a degradation of freedom of information (FOI), even in comparatively open societies like Aotearoa/New Zealand. Stemming from a doctoral review of FOI scholarship, this article traces FOI’s origins and role in democratic governance and finds scholarssituate access to state-held information as a fundamental human right. However, it describes scepticism among journalism practitioners and researchers alike about the realpolitik success of FOI regimes. Researchers have recorded tendencies back to state secrecy since the declaration of the so-called war on terror and document various other FOI failures, from blatant disregard for the law to an ever-growing structural pluralism that is casting shadows over state expenditure. This article also considers literature on Aotearoa-New Zealand’s FOI regime, work largely produced by legal-studies and policy-studies scholars. It outlines what research does exist within journalism studies but contends a lack of more significant contributions has restricted our understanding of the regime.


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How to Cite
Treadwell, G. (2016). FOI scholarship reflects a return to secrecy. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 22(1), 121-136.