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Exploring the Liberal Genealogy and the Changing Praxis of the Right of Access to Information: Towards an Egalitarian Realisation

Richard Calland

Keywords: DEMOCRACY; EGALITARIANISM; FREEDOM OF INFORMATION; LIBERALISM; RIGHT OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION; TRANSPARENCY

Abstract

Part of the popular attraction of transparent governance and freedom of information is that it has the potential to reconfigure venerable information asymmetries between state and citizen. Is this an expression of the liberal genealogy of the idea? Based on four foundational considerations, this article argues that the 'new' practice of the right of access to information (ATI) suggests that the idea can escape its liberal heritage to serve egalitarian socio-economic outcomes. The first explores the genealogy of ATI as a right, examining its 'liberal' roots. The second considers the idea that liberal rights are, per se, non-progressive or anti-egalitarian. Accordingly, the third examines the nature of the right. The fourth considers the praxis and the emerging empirical picture to see if it supports ATI's embryonic 'theory of change', which casts ATI as a 'power right', which in practice, and subject to certain conditions, enables ATI to adopt an egalitarian disposition.

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