Helping journalists get access to information

Journalists play a central role in initiating and stimulating public debates, but face constant challenges in accessing information from public bodies, particularly when that information relates to sensitive issues such as corruption, organised crime, environmental contamination, or relationships with business and lobby groups.

The right of access to information and access to information laws have become a crucial tool in this context. They guarantee journalists access to information held by public bodies for their stories and investigations, enabling them to exercise their role as public watchdogs in our democracies.

The Legal Leaks Toolkit, developed by Access Info Europe and n-ost, helps journalists obtain information using access to information laws.

The Legal Leaks Toolkit

This toolkit is designed for journalists working in any media – newspapers, radio, and television – as well as bloggers and other information professionals who need to get access to information held by public bodies for their stories.

The toolkit is for journalists making requests in their own country or considering filing a request in another country. It is based on a comparative analysis of the access to information of the 42 countries of the Council of Europe region which have such laws. In many places in the text we have put references where national law or practice deviates from the normal access to information standards.

Download here the international version of the Legal Leaks Toolkit (in English) which can be adapted to the legal framework of any country. The existing national versions, translated into local languages, are available below.

Twenty Top Tips:

A quick guide to the Legal Leaks Toolkit for busy journalists

  • Plan ahead to save time [ + ]

  • Start out simple [ + ]

  • Submit multiple requests [ + ]

  • Mention your right to information [ + ]

  • Tell them you are a journalist [ + ]

  • … or don’t tell them you are a journalist! [ + ]

  • Hide your request in a more general one [ + ]

  • Anticipate the exceptions [ + ]

  • Check the rules about fees [ + ]

  • Ask for electronic copies to avoid copying costs [ + ]

  • Ask for access to the files [ + ]

  • Keep a record! [ + ]

  • Speed up answers by making it public you submitted a request [ + ]

  • Prepare to appeal against refusals and silence [ + ]

  • Make a story our of refusals [ + ]

  • Appeal based on the public interest [ + ]

  • Make a standard template for appeals [ + ]

  • Get help to address problems with spokespersons [ + ]

  • Involve your colleagues in using access to information [ + ]

  • Submit international requests [ + ]

Download the Twenty Top Tips in full!

Who we are

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Access Info Europe is an international human rights organisation, based in Madrid, which works to promote a strong and functioning right of access to information in Europe and globally.

Access Info’s goal is for the right of access to information to serve as a tool for defending civil liberties and human rights, for facilitating public participation in decision-making, and for holding governments accountable.

For more information visit www.access-info.org

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The Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe n-ost links journalists and media initiatives from about twenty European countries. They all share a European vision that encompasses both the east and the west of Europe. The focus of n-ost is on detailed reports from and about Eastern Europe.

Members of n-ost are against restrictions that limit journalistic endeavour. The network organizes training programmes for journalists, conferences, research journeys and international media projects.

For more information visit www.n-ost.de