这些原则应肯定公众有权获取公共机构掌握的信息

开放社会正义研究所(Open Society Justice Institute)高级法律事务专员Sandra Coliver认为获取信息的权利对言论自由是至关重要的。

获取公共机构掌握的信息的确是言论自由的一个要素,出于多种理由,应该确保有一条单独的原则适用于它。

首先,也是最重要的,获取公共机构拥有的信息以及具有公用功能或接受公众基金的私营实体的信息,对人们能否参与有根据的讨论,对人们能否有效地监督政府履行职责,保护人权、健康、公共安全和环境均是至关重要的,同时它也能确保人们在公平的基础上获取公共物资和服务。

人们需要从政府那里获取两大类信息。我们需要得到消费者及接受政府服务的用户资料,包括如何得到服务和有权获取的东西以及评价哪些服务对我们来说是最好的,例如:医院、学校和交通工具。公众,特别是监督委员会,同样需要知晓政府机构是如何运转的信息,包括政府的预算、产出、政策、官员工资、资源外取 合同、失察单位的报告等,以便评估这些机构是否提供了与支付价值相符的服务,是否遵从了国际法规,是否在按照宪法和法令的要求办事。

公共机构特别不情愿提供这些信息,因为公众可以根据这些信息来要求这些机构,或主要官员履行自己的职责,他们当然不想那么轻易地就向用户提供信息, 因为搜集和反复核对这些信息本身就是一项沉重的负担,再者,由于公布这些信息有可能曝光这些机构一些秘密的不道德行为和管理上的失误。如:美国消费者机构 长期以来不愿公布对产品的投诉,担心这些投诉没有确凿的根据,一旦公布可能会对制造商产生不公正的偏见,或因而导致诽谤行为。该机构最终同意在2011年 6月公布这些资料,并声称他们不做任何承诺。

第二,在原则一中提到的概念,如“接收和传递各种信息和想法”的自由并不完全包含“获取公供机构掌握的信息”的全部含义。“收到和告知信息的权力自由”在人权宣言中有详尽的解释,随后联合国和区域性条约也普遍认可,它仅仅应用于那些自愿交换信息而政府又不予干涉的机构,并不是指对公民的索赔以及其他 人从不愿意披露信息的公用机构中获取信息一事。

第三,国际的及各国的专家、制度和法律也只是在最近才证实,自由表达的权力包括了有权获取公用机构所掌握的信息。譬如:仅在2011年联合国人权委 员会才宣称,《公民和政治权利国际公约》第19条包含从公用机构获取信息的权力。该委员会由联合国成员国选举产生的18名专家组成,是一个负有翻译及应用 该公约任务的权威机构,而该公约是把人权宣言编入法规的一种条约。将这一权力给予国际认可是一件新奇的事,其重要性在于,政府总有一种倾向,想否认自己有 义务提供所掌握的信息,因此我们有必要确保证这一点成为单独的一项原则。

现在已有五十多个国家的宪法赋予“信息权”以与宪法相符的地位;近90个国家对国家层面的信息权的立法已经生效——这包括人口大国巴西、中国、印 度、印尼、俄罗斯和美国,欧洲和中亚的大部分国家,拉丁美洲超过一半的国家和10多个亚太国家,7个非洲国家和3个中东和北美国家。有52亿人生活在这些 国家之中,他们国内的法律强制执行这一权力,至少在理论上确保了人们可以从政府获取信息(开放社会正义研究所所维护的网站上,可以找到所有这些宪法和和法 庭判定的引文)。

据此,我将加入一条新的原则,详述如下:

“我们需要信息,包括从公共机构获取信息,以便能够参与有根据的辩论;让政府履行职责;保护我们的人权、公共安全、健康和环境;确保我们在公平的基础上获取公共物资和服务。”

该原则回应了上述各要点,而且含蓄地提出两点新意。首先,我们需要信息,这已包括在内;其次,还需要从公共机构获取信息,而且这不是局限性的。联合 国人权委员会和众多国家的法律承认,人们同样需要从具有公用功能、接受过公众基金、实际上由政府操控依法成立的非公用机构获取信息。几个最新的法律和宪 法,包括南非的法律在内,都承认,人们或许需要从损害他们权力的任何实体获取信息。其次,从公用机构获取信息的需求对公民来说不是局限性的,相反在一定程 度上这是一种人权,作为言论自由,有着功能性和实质性的价值,对于我们的人性和自由是至关重要的,以便我们能够做出有根据的选择和自我表述。在功能性层 面,一个国家的居民(不管是不是公民)以及个人以某种方式受到政府行为的影响,自然需要也有权获取政府提供的信息。

最后,我还要建议,第十条原则应该扩大,明确地提及信息自由:

“我们必须自由挑战对信息自由的各种限制,自由表达应建立在诸如国家安全、公共秩序和道德的合理的基础上。”

这一新增加的要点解释了,不仅要允许人们表达冒犯现政府的观点,而且要敢于挑战以国家安全和公众利益为借口的保密行为。

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评论 (6)

读者须知:自动翻译由Google翻译提供,虽然可以反映作者大意,但不一定能提供精准的译意。

  1. Dear Timothy,

    I like your project so much, I refer to it in my Trial Brief.

    You may like to help me distribute my true to life story world wide.

    Louis Leclezio

    http://www.freespeech-internetcontrol.com

    I am the voice of the ‘little guy’ from Africa.

    Whereas, the fastest growing Internet markets are in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.

    Whereas, the North American Internet market is saturated.

    http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

    Whereas, those fast growing markets should, if anything, be privileged and protected rather than adversely prejudiced.

    Whereas, the Internet success rests on the shoulders of hundreds of millions of little guys like me around the world.

    Whereas, scant mention is made in the media and/or in any proposed resolutions, ahead of WCIT2012, that address the problems encountered by the ‘little guys’ under the present US ruled system.

    Whereas the ITU is represented in the US by Scott Cleland as: “not to understand the voluntary nature of the Internet or how the Internet really operates and evolves – because the bottom-up collaborative Internet is the antithesis of top-down governmental command and control.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/05/24/the-itunet-folly-why-the-un-will-never-control-the-internet/

    Whereas although the Internet is represented as a “bottom up collaborative” international ‘effort’ the vast multi billion dollar revenues that this “bottom up” US controlled ‘co-op’ generates is understandably jealously guarded by very few privileged US Corporations at the top of the Internet tree.

    Whereas no matter how powerful a nation is, or how well capitalized any US Corporation is, if it crucifies the ‘little guy’ once too often, it may end up killing its right to control the Internet goose that has laid so many golden eggs for so long for its privileged benefit.

    Check out Google Market value for example: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=GOOG

    Now, therefore, be it resolved that the ITU, the US, Google and the world media should pay urgent attention when the human rights of the ‘little guy’ are not respected and are not protected by the US.

    After all, no one should ever forget that those golden eggs are increasingly collected from a multitude of ‘little guys’ located in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.

    Whereas, those fastest growing Internet markets are outside USA borders!

    Who, in the world, should best protect the Internet nest and distribute the eggs fairly?

    My web site http://www.freespeech-internetcontrol.com tells part of the true story of the ‘little guy’ from Africa.

    Will the ITU, the US Congress & Senate, Google and the world media help me write the rest of the story?

    I look forward to hear from you.

    Louis Leclezio

  2. I agree that the principles should affirm the public’s right to information held by public bodies (access). However, a prior principle is also important, namely, that information generated by public bodies is the property of the public and should be kept and archived for public use. Typically this principle is implemented through an archives law, which logically precedes an access law. In Hong Kong there is no legal requirement that public bodies maintain archives, and consequently most information is destroyed, not archived. Although Hong Kong has a public records office, public bodies are not required by law to deposit information in the office. Thus, since 1997, when Hong Kong became a part of China, no public records have been transferred from the HK Chief Executives Office to the archive. The assumption apparently is that these public records are the private property of the Chief Executive. Still, China and most other countries have some kind of archives law. We in the Archives Action Group in HK are lobbying to introduce such a law, but so far have had little success. A legal requirement that public information be kept precedes the principle of public access to them.

  3. Completely agree, What is the point of free speech if societies are not well informed and are not given legitimate facts? When people protest for a cause against their government and their cause does not contain full information of the governments actions, the state will undermine protests due to an uninformed public. The government will act as they wish. The population is subjugated to the information governments want to show them (especially in country’s that control the media).

    Also, in country’s such as America media is ideologically and politically linked to the government, thus information the government does not want to share with the public will not be aired in the media.

  4. My concern, from experience, is that however well-intentioned the Freedom of Information acts are (as presently enshrined certainly within the UK) open to considerable abuse. In my years of dealing with FOI requests I cannot honestly say I have seen anything that resembles something I, as a citizen, would wish to defend. For the most part it is used by journalists who are simply fishing for stories, commercial vendors seeking to take advantage of business intelligence, lazy research students, or individuals who wish solely to tie up the internal processes of public bodies distracting them from the other work they need to do. I defend the principle of FOI, but in its present state, feel it is not being used for its original purpose.

  5. I would tend to disagree with the conceptual approach. Much as I agree with the proposed principle, I don’t see how this is an aspect of free speech, or even of fundamental rights generally.

    Instead, it is an issue of democracy and due process. Only if we have access to documents can we properly inform ourselves in order to vote for the best candidate, and only if we have access to documents can we properly take advantage of our right to due process of law. (Cf. this access to documents case from last month, about access to documents created in the course of an antitrust investigation. Without those documents, how can the private victims of the cartel sue?)

    The link between access to documents and free speech, on the other hand, is much more tenuous. Even in the absence of the relevant documents, relevant speech is still possible. No one knows for certain what happened in Guantanamo and the other black holes, but that doesn’t stop us from talking through various scenarios, arguing about right and wrong, and about what we would like the government to do. The details of the truth only really matter when the time comes to turn those opinions into a democratic vote, or when the time comes to bring a habeas petition on behalf of someone stuck in a black hole. Democracy and due process, not free speech.

    A further problem is that the proposed principle essentially implies a positive obligation for the government. As the previous commenter wrote, access to documents means that the government has to publish information and in many cases even prepare documents so that they can be published. In my humble opinion, on the other hand, the free speech debate should be first and foremost about the government getting out of the way, about negative liberty.

  6. The onus should be upon the public bodies to actively publish any material as it is created, together with a statement of public resources which have been expended.

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“言论自由大讨论”是牛津大学圣安东尼学院达伦多夫自由研究计划下属的学术项目。

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