An interesting two-part documentary from the BBC about freedom of information laws, their evolution and limitations, and applications, in Europe, America, and around the world.

Former president and FOI activist Jimmy Carter says that despite the requirement that FOI requests be answered in twenty days, the agriculture department takes more than nine hundred, and the health department more than one thousand.

Over 70 states already have an FOI law of some kind. In another 50 or so, moves have begun to get one passed.

Freedom of information is well on the way to being seen as an essential prerequisite for a modern democracy. But there’s almost always a backlash from politicians and officials. And throughout the world ‘right to know’ laws have become a subject of controversy and political conflict.

Parts one and two are available now.

Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.