Book Review: Transparency in Politics and the Media: Accountability and Open Government

The advent of info-communication technologies and the Internet has ushered in an era of new possibilities for transparency. Information can be stored and disseminated more easily by governments. It can also be read by anyone with access to the Internet, anytime, anywhere. Considered a form of bolstering public confidence in governance, it has been proposed by optimists as the solution to what is considered one of the most impalpable problems plaguing democratic governance: increasing mistrust of the government on the part of citizens. Patrick Birkinshaw has previously argued that transparency should be viewed as a basic human right (i.e. the “right to know”), while sceptics such as Baroness Onora O’Neill postulate that too much transparency incites further stress, confusion and uncertainty in the public.

In light of the News of the World scandal and subsequent Leveson Inquiry, the culture and practices of the British press are undergoing great scrutiny and criticism. Apart from involving government officials and policymakers, celebrities such as Hugh Grant have become prominently involved, developing transparency into a hot-button issue. Regardless of its impacts, it is incontestable that mere transparency alone, without concomitant increases in public participation, cannot ameliorate any sort of democratic deficit. Arguments regarding the need for transparency in the UK have been especially prevalent since governments in the EU have started to follow in American footsteps by issuing access regulation, sharing many features with the US Freedom of Information Act. Continue>>>