The right to information in Russia
Enabling people to access information is empowering. It provides a means to understand and effectively engage with institutions that hold the power to affect their lives.
This report examines the situation for people in Russia to obtain government held information, the rights they have under international and national law to access information and the obstacles they face in exercising those rights. It provides recommendations to the Russian government, civil society and other actors to improve the exercise of right to information, which is critical to achieving other rights.
The right to information is a fundamental human right, recognised under international law. The 1993 Russian Constitution enshrined the right domestically, and a series of federal laws have since elaborated how it can be exercised – most notably the 2010 Law “On Providing Access to Information on the Activities of State Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government”. They provide citizens with the right to request and receive information, setting out a clear procedure for requests and placing responsibilities on governmental bodies and agencies to provide the required information.
However, these laws do not always comply with international standards. Furthermore, unfortunately in practice the right to information is often violated by Russian public officials – with information that should be in the public domain withheld or requests for information only partially fulfilled or ignored completely.
This means people in Russia are deprived of their right to know, and free flow of information is limited, particularly on important topics such as environmental protection, personal data, elections, the income of State officials and the functioning of the judicial system. Though implementation is often weak, the 2010 Law on ATI’s existence and examples of it being used by journalists and civil society holds hope for transparency even in Russia’s current political environment.