Miriam Nisbet

Freedom of Information and Open Government: are we there yet?

27 August 2012

Did you know that Australia's FoI laws were introduced as a result of the Watergate scandal in 1970s USA? Hear about the growing trend towards open government in the Western world, and enjoy some 'war' stories from a long-time campaigner for freedom of the press.

Guest speaker Miriam Nisbet was Director of the Office of Government Information Services, based in Washington DC.

Established in 2007, OGIS is the US Government's Freedom of Information ombudsman. OGIS is responsible for resolving FOI disputes between Federal agencies and requesters, answering questions, tracking suggestions and providing information to both the public and government. Congress has charged OGIS with reviewing FOI policies, procedures and compliance by Federal agencies.

Miriam Nisbet's recent professional interests have been the US experience with Open Government, how the Freedom of Information laws fit into that, the critical role of records management, and the challenges of measuring successes in moving towards Open Government.

Miriamwas  a keynote speaker at the International Council on Archives (ICA) 2012 Congress. We are grateful to ICA for assisting with bringing Miriam to Australia and facilitating her visit to the Unviersity of Melbourne.

Dr Denis Muller is a leading expert on media ethics and worked as a journalist for 27 years including Assistant Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald and Associate Editor at The Age. For several years he was the Freedom of Information Editor at The Age.

Since 1995 he has conducted independent social and policy research across education, health, environment and media fields. Dr Muller teaches media ethics and is the author of Media Ethics and Disasters.

Together with Michael Gawenda, Dr Muller has been conducting the research into how the media covered the Black Saturday Bushfires and the second stage of this project, consulting with bushfire-affected communities about their experiences with the media.Denis is a Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne.