Right to information arenas: exploring the right to information in Chile, New Zealand and Uruguay


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Type of work: PhD Thesis


e-Government | Open Access | Policy & Regulation


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The Right to Information (RTI) – a right every individual has to access public information held by governments – is now established in more than 100 countries. RTI laws set up a new logic in government: availability of public information is the principle and secrecy the exception. RTI laws create new public information arenas where several actors request, release and use public information for several purposes. In this work, I seek to explore why RTI arenas based on similar principles, work differently leading to different outputs.My explanation is based on a historical- institutionalist perspective arguing that origins of these laws and previous institutional structures matter. I argue that three factors help to shape these arenas: the level of participation in the policy-making process, the professionalisation of state bureaucracy and RTI enforcement institutions. The combination of these factors gives us three different kinds of arenas: functional, mixed and contested. I develop a conceptual framework, operating at a middle-range theory level, to analyse the role RTI laws, requesters, the state, and the existence of RTI enforcement institutions play in each configuration. I show how these arenas evolve and work, running a structured and focused comparison of three case studies: Uruguay, Chile and New Zealand. This work shows how these arenas ended up differing in outputs such as availability of public information and efficiency in processing RTI requests, as well as the existence of effective accountability mechanisms to resolve disputes about public information.