Page last updated at 05:49 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 06:49 UK

Press behind 11% of FoI requests

The NI government received 3,164 FOI requests.
The NI government received 3,164 FOI requests.

Freedom of Information requests were condemned last year as being abused by "lazy journalists", but the media was responsible for only 11% of them.

The details are contained in the Northern Ireland government's annual report on Freedom of Information.

It said the 11 NI government departments received a total of 3,164 such requests during 2007.

Of these 62% were from members of the public, 13% from businesses and 11% from the media.

Solicitors, public representatives and researchers account for the remaining 14%.

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the government had responded well to the challenges FOI legislation posed over the last three years.

They said a new culture of openness and transparency continued to embed itself within the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

"Our departments have maintained their good performance in terms of responding to requests for information on time and in disclosing information," Mr Robinson said.

"This steady flow of information about the business of government will be balanced against the need to protect personal information entrusted to us by the public."

Mr McGuinness said new model publication schemes for departments will play a "crucial role in ensuring that information about the work of the executive is disseminated proactively".

The report said that 91% of requests received were answered within 20 working days, or within a permitted time extension, and information being fully disclosed in 76% of cases.

The most commonly used exemption (for withholding information) was "personal information", followed by "commercial interests" and "health and safety".


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