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A Shock to the System: Journalism, Government and the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Journalists using the Freedom of Information Act have forced details of MPs' Second Homes allowances into the open, with embarrassing results for Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith and other Ministers. Many other revelations have come about through the Act in the spirit of Open Government.

But over four years the Act has become a game of Cat and Mouse with Whitehall with protracted delays and appeals to official arbiters like the Information Commissioner making requests for Information a gamble for journalists working to a deadline.

'A Shock to the System' is an incisive and informative report by Jeremy Hayes of BBC Radio 4's 'The World Tonight into how FOI is working in Britain. Mr Hayes, a BBC Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, has interviewed the main players in the Freedom of Information world. He explores the pressures in the Civil Service and government which led Justice Secretary, Jack Straw to veto the release of Cabinet papers over the decision to go to war in Iraq, as well as other critical policy decisions.

He reveals the growing role of Campaign organizations in using the Act to bolster their agenda and explains why to some journalists, with an eye on public bodies like Health Trusts and national agencies, FOI has become a gold mine for disclosures of previously confidential information.

Jeremy Hayes' working paper 'A Shock to the System:  Journalism, Government and the Freedom of Information Act 2000' was launched on Wednesday 20th May.

Read Jeremy's article on what the MPs' expenses scoop tells us about journalists and Freedom of Information in the Guardian Online.