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Freedom of access to information

Freedom of access to information

Intellectual freedom is the right to access and share information, to intellectual activity and creativity, to expression and debate.

A fair and prosperous democratic society is built upon access to information and ideas, the ability to develop knowledge and communicate with others.


Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous.

Definition of censorship from the American Library Association

When a library and information service is funded by the public it should provide access to all publically available information as far as resources allow.

Access should not be restricted on any grounds but the law and the legal basis of any restriction should always be stated. Library and information professionals should have full control over collection development, management and access within broad policies set by their organisation.

Freedom of information

CILIP believes that all publicly funded information, including Government data and publicly funded research, should be accessible to the public unless there is good reason otherwise. A good reason would include the excluded categories listed in the Freedom of Information Act (2000). The default position for information generated in Government must be that it should be made publically available.

Within a knowledge economy information assets are business critical to many businesses and other independently funded organisations. These assets provide competitive advantage, contribute to profit and help them meet their objectives. Access may be restricted on grounds such as commercial interest. Such organisations should manage their information within an appropriate regulatory and ethical framework.

The role of CILIP and our members

CILIP's Statement on Intellectual Freedom, Access to Information and Censorship sets out our commitment to promoting a society where intellectual activity and creativity, freedom of expression and debate, and access to information are encourages and nurtured as vital elements underpinning individual and community fulfilment in all aspects of human life.

Promoting intellectual freedom and human rights are central to the library and information profession’s ethics and values.

Library and information professionals have a unique role providing access to information and knowledge by managing, developing and making materials and resources available to their users.

CILIP opposes censorship and supports the right to intellectual freedom.

We believe that freedom of expression, freedom to debate and access to information are fundamental in a free and democratic society.

CILIP Members

Commitment to uphold, promote and defend intellectual freedom, including freedom from censorship.

CILIP Ethical Principle 4

CILIP members work in more than 20 industry sectors, including the public, private and 3rd sector as well as Government. All CILIP members agree to abide by an Ethics Framework which sets out their commitment to uphold, promote and defend:

  • Human rights, equalities and diversity and the equitable treatment of users and colleagues
  • The public benefit and the advancement of the wider good of our profession to society
  • Preservation and continuity of access to knowledge
  • Intellectual freedom, including freedom from censorship
  • Impartiality and the avoidance of inappropriate bias
  • Confidentiality of information provided by clients or users & the right of all individuals to privacy
  • The development of information skills and information literacy

In addition, the Ethics Framework commits CILIP to support, uphold and defend these same principles on behalf of the information profession.

Freedom of access to the internet

CILIP endorses the Council of Europe's guidelines on public access and freedom of expression in networked information. The guidelines see the use of filtering systems to block access to certain content as an "unwarranted interference with the individual's freedom of access to information."

CILIP is concerned that recent research suggests that filtered access to the internet is now a standard approach in UK public libraries and in some instances users are not informed of this.

The library and information profession supports the right to access information and to share information and ideas across frontiers and in any media, including the internet. Professionally led library and information services play an important role providing access to the internet and the skills, motivation and trust people need to get online and participate digitally.

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