Today’s Editorial, 14 April: Keep anonymity within FOI Law

Cayman Free Press and the Caymanian Compass throw our full support behind the position paper of Freedom of Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert.

She is urging government to maintain the anonymity of those who make open records requests and to keep the fees for providing those records at a minimum.

The paper comes at a time when government is reviewing the Freedom of Information Law, which was put into effect in January 2009. Under the law, the government review is required within 18 months of its enactment.

An FOI subcommittee has been appointed to take on this review, which is closed to the public and the press. We have made an open request for minutes of the subcommittee’s meetings, but have so far been unsuccessful. And neither the newspaper nor the public knows when these meetings are being held. We find all of this a bit ironic; but we digress.

Mrs. Dilbert is right in her prodding of government to keep anonymity in the law and fees reasonable.

The paramount issue of freedom of information is just that – the freedom to glean information from the government. A basic principle behind freedom of information legislation is that the burden of proof falls on the body asked for information, not the person asking for it. Those making the requests do not usually have to give an explanation for their actions.

While we have a population of around 55,000 people in the Cayman Islands, we are still a small enough community that many people still know who is who and who is related to whom.

People have to be comfortable in requesting information from the government without fear of public exposure or retribution.

By taking away the anonymity factor, freedom of information will become harder to achieve.

This will be the case if fees for government information are set exorbitantly high.

Right now the law says that fees have to be reasonable; basically they shouldn’t be higher than it costs to produce the information.

Everything should be done to make freedom of information an easy and transparent tool for all.