Information commissioner calls for Government transparency

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The Government should be more transparent and proactive in publishing communications rather than "clamming up" following the WikiLeaks revelations, the Information Commissioner said today.

Christopher Graham claimed that ministers and civil servants could no longer assume that they work in private.

He said the authorities needed to "wise up" to the fact that almost any official communication could potentially be made public.

He told The Guardian: "We are strongly of the view that things should be published. Where you're open things will not be WikiLeaked. Whatever view you take about WikiLeaks - right or wrong - it means that things will now get out. It has changed things. I'm saying government and authorities need to factor it in. Be more proactive, publishing more stuff, because quite a lot of this is only exciting because we didn't know it.

"You can't un-invent WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen ... these are facts that aren't going to go away. Government and authorities need to wise up to that."

Mr Graham, who became Information Commissioner in June 2009, said he opposes the indiscriminate leaking of information.

He continued: "The difference between what I do and what Julian Assange does is the difference between freedom of information and free-for-all. Freedom of information accepts that there are some things where you need to strike a balance. The free for all says isn't this exciting, we didn't know it - never mind the casualties. Life is much more complicated than that.

"That doesn't mean that pubic authorities shouldn't sit up and take notice of what's happening with WikiLeaks. Even if you're working within the structures of freedom of information, things may get out. It's as well to recognise that fact."

The former secretary of the BBC urged ministers not to react to the WikiLeaks disclosures by trying to control information more tightly, advising them instead to be more open.

"One response is that they will clam up and not write anything down, which is nonsense, you can't run any organisation that way," he said.

"The other is to be even more open. The best form of defence is transparency - much more proactive publication of what organisations do. It's an attitude of 'OK. You want to know? Here it is'."