September 27, 2022

The Editor Speaks: Right to know

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Colin Wilsonweb2All of Cayman Islands media houses, journalists, and editors should have received an email today (9) inviting them to a 1 hour lunch time workshop.

It is in tune with the Right To Know Week that runs from 26th September – 30th September.

The invite says the “workshop will be based on the “Ins and outs of making FOI requests and how best to obtain the information you are looking for using the FOI Law”. The ICO believes the workshop would be beneficial to those new to the FOI Law as well as “seasoned” veterans.

“The workshop will be presented by the Acting Deputy Information Commissioner, Cory Martinson.”

I applaud the initiative and hope it comes to fruition as it depends upon our response whether it takes place at all.

Is it our basic Right to Know?

One would think so, but it depends on what it is.

In the context of United States workplace and community environmental law is the legal principle that the individual has the right to know the chemicals to which they may be exposed in their daily living. It is embodied in federal law in the United States as well as in local laws in several states. “Right to Know” laws take two forms: Community Right to Know and Workplace Right to Know. Each grants certain rights to those groups. The “right to know” was a movement made popular by Rachel Carson with her book Silent Spring.

Environmental illness shares characteristics with common diseases. For example, cyanide exposure symptoms include weakness, headache, nausea, confusion, dizziness, seizures, cardiac arrest, and unconsciousness. Influenza and heart disease include the same symptoms. Cyanide is one of the most toxic known substances, and failure to obtain proper disclosure is likely to lead to improper or ineffective medical diagnosis and treatment. This can contribute to prolonged illness and death.

SOURCE: Wikipedia

One of the most famous recent quotes on the right to know question was from Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting congressional US delegate for the District of Columbia. She said on 25th July 2014 White House should not be held up to scrutiny, saying that there was no right to know what it was doing behind closed doors.

“You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government,” Norton said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

It will probably surprise you but under President Obama, the White House has asserted sweeping executive powers, including the right to ignore pretty much all congressional inquiries. The administration has regularly ignored subpoenas from congressional committees.

Ethically, we have the right to know everything. Legally we don’t. We can pass acts of Freedom of Information but it still doesn’t mean we have the right to know everything.

We just have a small right to know something. And that doesn’t mean that will be answered, speedily or at all.

Instead of Right it will be Left.

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