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Freedom of Information Act at 250: Moderated Discussions

Past Event

On 2 December 1766, the world’s first-ever freedom of information law was signed into law. It had been promulgated by the Riksdag – Parliament – of Sweden and Finland, which at the time was one country.

The 1766 Law is the oldest constitution to regulate freedom of information in the world and is thus celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2016.

It pioneered public access to state information, making what was then Sweden and Finland the first country in the world to officially instigate a Right to Information law.

The aim of this event is to commemorate, celebrate and scrutinise the adoption of this law as well as to discuss its relevance and significance today, in a national as well as in a global context.

This event is comprised of two moderated discussions and a panel discussion in the format of a conversation. The moderated discussions will start at 2:30pm and finish at 5:15pm. The panel discussion will start at 6pm and will end with a drinks and canapés reception for all participants.

Session 1: Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in the UK and Europe

In the first session the current challenges as well as possibilities of the Freedom of Information Act, both in a UK and European context, will be discussed with:

Maurice Frankel, Director, and Des Wilson, Founder, of Campaign for Freedom of Information (CFOI) – the organisation that, in 1984, founded to secure a legal right to public-held information.

Helen Darbishire Director of  Access Info Europe – dedicated to promoting and protecting the right of access to information particularly in European countries and institutions.

The session will be moderated by James Michael, Chair of the Advisory Board at Information Law and Policy Centre (IALS) and Special Adviser to the House of Lords Committee considering the Freedom of Information Bill pre-2000.

Session 2: Freedom of Information Law – The Swedish/Finnish history

In the second session the history, development and legacy of the Freedom of Information Act in Sweden and Finland, will be discussed with:~

Jonas Nordin
 from the Royal National Library, Stockholm – a Historian and Senior Lecturer who, earlier this year, published a history of the Swedish/Finnish Freedom of Information Act.

Peter Hogg, former Head of the Scandinavian Section at the British Library and translator of the first ever translation of the TF Law into English in 2006.

Ian Giles from the Scandinavian Studies Department at the University of Edinburgh, one of the translators of the second translation into English of the 1766 Law (October 2016).

Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Democracy, Halifax, Canada and author of a range of books on freedom of information, including comparative and analytical studies on the right to information and international FOI consultant.

The session will be moderated by Ben Worthy from Birkbeck College, University of London. Ben is a lecturer in politics who has authored many works on freedom of information.

Please note: This booking page is for the moderated discussions only. You will need to purchase an additional ticket to attend the panel discussion.

To book to attend the moderated discussions, please proceed to the booking section below.

If you would like to attend the panel discussion, please click here to book tickets.

With thanks to the Embassy of Sweden, the Embassy of Finland and the Information Law and Policy Centre.


Helen Darbishire, Director of Access Info Europe.

Maurice Frankel, Director of Campaign for Freedom of Information.

Ian Giles, Scandinavian Studies department at the University of Edinburgh.

Peter Hogg, translator and former Head of the Scandinavian Section at the British Library.

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19

Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy.

James Michael, Chair of the Advisory Board at Information Law and Policy Centre.

Jonas Nordin, Historian and Senior Lecturer from the Royal National Library, Stockholm.

Des Wilson, Founder of Campaign for Freedom of Information.

Ben Worthy, Lecturer in politics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

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