Freedom of Information Audits as Access Advocacy


To evaluate the performance of FOI regimes, associations of journalists and other groups undertake FOI audits. These audits assess the depth of disclosure, the use of exemptions, among other indicators of the health of FOI laws. Drawing on a thematic analysis of FOI audits, we examine how these audits are conducted and what the audits reveal about FOI in multiple jurisdictions. We discern four themes in these audits: (1) law enforcement and security hindrance of FOI, (2) a link between FOI advocacy and struggles for government transparency, (3) gross abuses of FOI, and (4) the potential for social change. Arguing that FOI audits are a form of access advocacy, we suggest future FOI audits could be more community-based and participatory. We also provide recommendations for those undertaking future FOI audits.