Have you heard of the Tshwane Principles yet? Published a week ago the Tshwane Principles on National Security and the Right to Information set out detailed best practice recommendations on where the lines should be drawn between disclosure and secrecy with regard to government held information. The document represents over two years of work by a collaboration of governments, academics, civil society groups and a wide range of expert opinions from over 70 different countries. The standards also address other issues from the treatment of whistle blowers, to the classification and declassification of information and to the formation of independent oversight bodies to name just a few.
This announcement article from the Open Society Justice Initiative who facilitated the creation of the principles claims that even the draft form of the principles has already proved itself a useful tool in the debate over state information laws in South Africa. It’s hoped that the completed Tshwane Principles will be considered and adopted by governments all over the world, promoting openness and justice in the area of information access. Lord Alex Carlile QC described the Principles as “a standard that is both aspirational and achievable”. Whenever issues of access, disclosure and classification make it onto the agenda, the Tshwane Principles need to be close behind, holding governments to a standard that is high and fair yet still has its feet firmly grounded in the realities of security today.