Access Info Europe Launches Improved FOI Toolkit for Journalists, Researchers

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Ms Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe
Ms Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe

Access Info Europe, a Madrid-based pro-transparency human rights organization, has launched AsktheEU Pro, an improved version of the AsktheEU.org account, designed to upgrade professional journalists and researchers’ experience when requesting access to documents from European Union(EU) bodies and institutions.

The platform has new advanced functionalities that include the possibility for Pro users to keep requests and responses private for 3, 6 or 12 months’ periods, which can be extended for an unlimited number of times. This, Access Info believes, will help journalists and researchers wishing to keep their stories or investigations confidential before they are ready to make them public.

Mrs Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe stated that: “Journalists play a central role in shaping public opinion as well as in engaging citizens in public affairs, but face constant challenges in accessing information from public bodies,” adding “Our goal with AsktheEU Pro is to serve journalists in their role as public watchdogs of our democracies, by making it easier for them to follow and have a say in what is going on at the European Union level, and in the decisions that have a direct impact on European citizens’ lives.”

She added, “The right of access to information and transparency have become crucial tools in a context of spreading of fake news, increasing populism and citizens’ distrust in the media – largely fuelled by populist governments. It is more urgent than ever to protect journalism from these threats, remembering that journalists provide a public service.”

The platform allows requests made by individuals to become visible for the public only when the user chooses to do so. Although AsktheEU.org administrators will be able to access them all the time, they will only do so in case of technical problems or if the need arises by the user. Privacy period can be extended by users but once it ends, requests and correspondence, including the user name, will become publicly available on the website for other users and citizens to see.

Additionally, Pro users will continue to benefit from the other features of AsktheEU.org as they will be able to access other users’ requests and responses, rate responses for quality and comprehensiveness, comment on other users’ answers and file administrative appeals (“confirmatory applications”) when they are dissatisfied with the answers received.

The AsktheEU.org portal has, since its launch in 2011, become an important platform to push for an increase in transparency of EU institutions by permitting thousands of citizens to make access to documents requests to EU bodies and publishing the full exchange of emails between the individuals and EU institutions online.

The AsktheEU.org platform runs on the Alaveteli software which underpins the UK’s successful WhatDoTheyKnow.com built by the NGO mySociety; it is also inspired by Germany’s FragdenStaat.de, from the Open Knowledge Foundation, and similar sites in countries ranging from Kosovo (InformataZyrtare.org) and Chile (AccesoInteligente.org).

Journalists and researchers interested in the new features of AsktheEU Pro are encouraged to become a Pro user and discover what AsktheEU Pro can do.

Access Info Europe also urges users to send email toteam[@]asktheeu[.]orgto tell the organisation why they would like to be the next AsktheEU Pro user.