Latest News - Cameron announces plans for NHS reform -::::- Southampton Toll Collectors go on 1 week strike -::::- Follow @mackingnews on Twitter for all of the latest stories -::::-

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act enables journalists to request (and receive) certain information and data from the public sector.

Any person making a request for information to a public authority is entitled:-
- To be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds information of the description specified in the request
- (If that is the case) To have that information communicated to them.

An example of data that would be stored would be the Department of Employment’s recordings of injuries/claims for work absences.
There are public sectors that are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act such as the army/national security. Also there are cases or circumstances where a public body does not have to provide information.

Only information or ‘records of decision’ which have been written down or electronically recorded, counts as information available to the public under the meaning of the act.
Confidentiality – information about a specific person would go against confidentiality and
therefore not allowed.

Every public organisation has a freedom of information officer.

You need to find out who they are (information officer). Then write a letter making your request (with the main exemption obviously being national security).
If your request is rejected you can appeal to the information commissioner (Information Commissions Office). You write a letter to them asking them to explore it as part of your appeal.

There are 3 forms of protection against the Freedom of Information Act.
1 – National Security
2 - Confidentiality
3 – Cost of Complying

In terms of ‘Cost of Complying’, this means that the place you are requesting the data from will assess the cost to acquire that data which will decide whether it was worth the time/cost.

An example of a man that has made a lot of money using the Freedom of Information Act is journalist Matt Davis. E.g. - The Worst Hospitals in Britain. For this story, Davis found out from the NHS Litigation Authority how many people sued each hopsital and how much it needed to pay in compensation. With this data he was able to produce a league table. This is also a good example of comment as it would not necessarily mean they are the 'worst' hopsitals.

Important stats to note is that when you go to hopsital, up to 12 seperate authorities will record the fact(as well as other information about you). Also when a child is excluded their are around 10 seperate pieces of information recorded on them.

Getting Stories
Press Agencies are a good source when using the Freedom of Information Act. One example is thye Foriegn Office. One journalist decided to see if their were any recorded complaints from Kasakstan about the film Borat. He had to wait a while(as he needed to avoid intruding national security), but eventually discovered that they were very unhappy with the film, and were supposedly close to attacking us.

It's important when requesting information that you use exactly their language. This may lead to back and forth letters as you may need to keep refrasing your question and changing your words to suit them.
Occasionally, whe they stats you recieve are small numbers, you may be able to ask for small specific details about some of the cases.

Don't take no for an answer!
And keep rephrasing your question until you get what you want.


good but hume didn't invention verification princip

Post a Comment