We do not give the title of Idiot of the week to people for expressing their opinions, however outrageous they might sound. Yet, calling the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) a “truly malign piece of legislation” borders on the outrageous and makes this title well deserved. Lord Callanan, a minister at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Britain, just said that.

People have died and suffered to have freedom of information. It took activists a long time to have such laws in place. And still many countries in the world don’t have them, their societies hardly knowing what is happening behind the government’s closed doors. Without transparency and such laws, societies rot and corruption flourishes.

But Lord Callanan believes that charging the public fees for requesting government information was an “excellent idea.” The comments were made during a debate in the UK parliament as he defended a decision by the government not to apply transparency laws to a new research agency.

It is true that there are many loonies out there who make a hobby out of filing FOI requests. That can be annoying and waste public funds. Yet, there is more damage coming from government officials enmeshed in corruption and wrongdoing in Britain and anywhere else who squander public funds on a cosmic scale. That is way more harmful than keeping state clerks paid and busy responding to people’s FOI requests.

Transparency activists criticized Lord Callanan’s comments as reflecting “the government’s deep dislike of being held to account.” It is precisely about that.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“There are too many idiots in this world. And having said it, I have the burden of proving it.”

Frantz Fanon