Liebaers: ‘It’s Yours, Just Ask!’

Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers
Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers

Jan Liebaers
Acting Information Commissioner

I am writing to invite participation in the annual celebration of Right to Know Week, organized by the Information Commissioner’s Office from Sept. 26 to Oct. 3.

Every year, Sept. 28 is observed around the world as International Right to Know Day, to raise awareness of the right to access government records and information, and show support for government openness, transparency and accountability. In the Cayman Islands these rights and objectives are enshrined in the Constitution and embodied in the Freedom of Information Law.

In the coming days the ICO is hosting events for the general public, the media and public servants, in order to highlight FOI and encourage individuals to know and use their rights under the Law.

Even as the FOI Law has been in effect for almost eight years, promoting the information rights of individuals remains an important and unfinished task. To our surprise, every year we encounter individuals who have never even heard of Freedom of Information, and may not be aware they hold these rights:

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the right to request any recorded information held by government

the right to receive an acknowledgment of your request within 10 days, and a full response within 30 days

if a public authority withholds anything you asked for, the right to be given reasons under the Law

if access is denied, the right to obtain an internal review by the responsible Chief Officer; and,

if you are not satisfied, or suspect that the Law has not been applied correctly, the right to contact the Information Commissioner and appeal.

This year our theme for Right to Know Week is “It’s Yours, Just Ask!” In re-using the same theme from previous years, we seek to recognize once again that it is all too easy to forget that government works for the people, and that information held by public authorities should be open and accessible, either proactively or upon request – although certain types of information can be withheld for legitimate, limited reasons.

A number of big changes are afoot in the coming year. The merger of the ICO into a larger Ombudsman’s Office aims to change the governance of government oversight, including FOI, but the basic principles of the FOI Law and the rights it grants are not expected to change. While this may very well be the last time that a separate (Acting) Information Commissioner leads the celebration of Right to Know Week, this time next year we will no doubt once again have occasion to reflect upon and celebrate our information rights, by then likely strengthened by a Data Protection Law.

In the meantime, the ICO and I continue to work hard to ensure that the FOI Law is applied correctly, and that all parties, both individuals and government officials, are aware of their rights and obligations, and know where to turn for further information. Remember: “It’s Yours, Just Ask!”

For more on FOI and the Right to Know Week schedule, see:

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