Posts Tagged ‘Transparency triumph’


Transparency Triumph of the Week: Open Government Partnership making first forays into open government promotion

The Open Government Partnership Forum last week marked a step forward in its goal of encouraging transparency and accountability efforts among governments around the world.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the OGP as a support network for leaders and citizens committed to improving transparency in countries worldwide, according to an article from the Brookings Institution.

The program’s emphasis on multilateral cooperation is key, as it will take efforts from all levels of power and influence to achieve its goal.

Civil society organizations were mentioned during the forum as important factors in encouraging open government.

The OGP has a tough road ahead – promoting transparency on a global scale is a tall order to fill. But starting a discussion on these issues is an important first step, and the forum last week succeeded in that respect.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

 

Transparency Triumph of the Week: Kenya web portal provides tons of gov info

Kenya bolstered its FOI efforts with the July 8 launch of a web portal that provides free information access to the public.

The Kenyan Open Government Data Portal has been heralded as the first project of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa and will provide a variety of data, according to Yahoo! News.

The right to information was included in the new Kenyan constitution adopted in 2010, although the country hasn’t enacted a freedom of information law yet.

The system provides information on government spending, 2009 census data, health and other topics. The website includes a catalog of all available data (currently clocking in at 160+ datasets) for visitors to explore.

The Kenyan government is making this information more easily accessible not only to improve transparency, but also because it can help policy makers develop plans based on the data available through the portal, according to the website.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

Transparency Triumph of the Week: Watchdog sticks up for nuclear whistleblower

After an investigation that lasted nearly a year, engineer Walter Tamosaitis is finally getting government support for blowing the whistle on nuclear practices by the Energy Department.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent watchdog agency within the government, rebuked Energy Secretary Steven Chu and supported Tamosaitis in his claim that a $12.3 billion nuclear project’s safety culture has serious flaws.

The investigation into the engineer’s claims showed that he was unfairly removed from work on a nuclear project that was supposed to handle radioactive waste materials located near Hanford, Wash., after asking uncomfortable questions about its design.

63-year-old Tamosaitis was redirected into a basement storage room where he had little work to do, according to the LA Times.

He questioned engineering experts about the chemical mixing technology incorporated into the Hanford project’s design, which carried several risks, including the potential for hydrogen gas explosions.

Tamosaitis’ treatment is under investigation by the Labor Department.

Although the Energy Department’s handling of Tamosaitis is deplorable, at least a government watchdog has finally stepped up in support of him and has criticized the agency for its mishandling of both Tamosaitis and the project he was questioning.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

 

 

Transparency Triumph of the Week: Texas gets an anti-SLAPP law

This week’s triumph goes to Texas, which became the 27th state to adopt anti-SLAPP legislation when Gov. Rick Perry signed an anti-SLAPP bill into law on June 17.

The law is called the Citizens Participation Act and protects citizens facing SLAPPs, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

These lawsuits are usually used in retaliation against people for using their right to freedom of speech. The purpose of such a suit isn’t always to win the case, but to intimidate critics.

In addition to Texas and the 26 other states that have adopted anti-SLAPP legislation, the District of Columbia also has a similar law. North Carolina and Congress are also looking at similar bills, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

The Texas anti-SLAPP law includes provisions for people facing a SLAPP that allow them to bring a motion to dismiss within 60 days of when the lawsuit is first brought against them.

If a person can prove that his or her speech is constitutionally protected, then the other party must prove that it is still likely to win the lawsuit. If they can’t, the case is dismissed.

The losing side must pay court costs for both sides, and a judge can choose to sanction the party who filed the lawsuit to deter that person from filing similar suits later on.

The new Texas law also provides a broad definition of the kinds of situations in which one is considered to have spoken out on an issue of public concern. Applicable topics include health issues or comments on various products and services.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

Transparency Triumph of the Week: Nigeria’s FOI bill signed into law

Records in Nigeria are going public.

President Goodluck Jonathan signed a freedom of information bill into law Saturday that will allow citizen access to public records for the first time.

The bill passed in the country’s National Assembly May 24 and was also approved by the Senate before the assembly voted on it.

This isn’t the first time Nigeria has passed an FOI bill, but former President Olusegun Obasanjo didn’t sign it into law in 2007.  The original version of the FOI bill was presented in 1999 soon after the country shifted from a 28-year history of sporadic military rule.

So here’s to the Nigerian government for honoring its citizens’ right to freedom of information. This is a historic moment in Nigeria as the nation marks a milestone in the fight for government transparency.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

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