Lecturer Martha Mendoza spearheads AP right-to-know investigation

November 17, 2011

Bundles of documents sit at the former National Police archive in Guatemala City. Guatemala adopted a freedom of information law in 2008. In the first worldwide test of freedom of information in 2011, Guatemala was among the most responsive of 105 countries involved, confirming a request from AP in 72 hours and sending all documents in ten days. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Martha Mendoza, AP national reporter and SciCom lecturer.

SciCom lecturer Martha Mendoza has led a major Associated Press investigation into whether countries follow their right-to-know laws in response to media and citizen requests.

AP's report, released on Nov. 17, follows months of investigation across 105 countries with right-to-know laws, along with the European Union, and interviews with freedom of information experts worldwide.

The story, written by Mendoza and edited by Assistant International Editor Mary Rajkumar, is the second part of AP's global freedom of information project. The first part, "Convicted for Terror," which documented the number and nature of terrorism arrests and convictions worldwide since 9/11, was sent on Sept. 4.

Mendoza and her colleagues found that more than half the countries with freedom of information laws do not follow them. In a single week in January 2011, AP reporters submitted questions about terrorism arrests and convictions, vetted by experts, to the European Union and the 105 countries with right-to-know laws or constitutional provisions. AP also interviewed more than 100 experts worldwide and reviewed hundreds of studies.

"This week's report on the effectiveness of freedom of information laws worldwide reflects AP's commitment to government access and our aggressive use of FOI regulations in newsgathering,” said John Daniszewski, AP's senior managing editor for international news and photos. "In many places, our reporting shows, government officials work to thwart transparency, and individuals who seek to use their rights to learn government secrets are subjected to persecution, including incarceration and physical violence."

Mendoza, who studied journalism as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist for AP. She teaches a graduate course in Policy and Investigative Reporting for SciCom with fellow lecturer Peter Aldhous of New Scientist. As part of their training, the students submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to federal, state, and regional agencies under Mendoza's direction.