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Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of information legislation, also described as open records or (especially in the United States) sunshine laws, are laws which set rules on access to information or records held by government bodies. In general, such laws define a legal process by which government information is required to be available to the public. In many countries there are constitutional guarantees for the right of access to information, but usually these are unused if specific legislation to support them does not exist.
Over 70 countries around the world have implemented some form of such legislation. Sweden's Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 is thought to be the oldest.
Other countries are working towards introducing such laws, and many regions of countries with national legislation have local laws. For example, all states of the United States have laws governing access to public documents of state and local taxing entities, in addition to that country's Freedom of Information Act which governs records management of documents in the possession of the federal government.
A related concept is open meetings legislation, which allows access to government meetings, not just to the records of them. In many countries, privacy or data protection laws may be part of the freedom of information legislation; the concepts are often closely tied together in political discourse.
A basic principle behind most freedom of information legislation is that the burden of proof falls on the body asked for information, not the person asking for it. The requester does not usually have to give an explanation for their request, but if the information is not disclosed a valid reason has to be given.