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During the past two decades, the number of countries that have enacted Freedom of Information (FOI) laws has increased dramatically. In many respects, FOI laws have become a democratic ‘right of passage’. No FOI, no ‘proper’ democracy.

The promises of FOI regimes are far-reaching: extensive independent access to government-held information will lead to increased transparency, prevention of corruption and maladministration and greater public participation in the political process. But are these promises borne out by the practice of FOI?

This article describes a study that tracked a number of real-life FOI requests in five countries. The project puts forward a prototype for the first International Freedom of Information Index, ranking the five countries of study on how their FOI regimes function in practice.

In conclusion, the paper suggest that the FOI Index should be expanded to cover all 65 plus countries that have implemented FOI laws. It is argued that such an index could play an important role in furthering some of the core properties of liberal democracy: transparency, political accountability and good governance.