Towards Unlimited Transparency? Morals and Facts concerning leaking to the press by public officials in the Netherlands
until further notice
SourcePublic Administration and Development, 27, 3, (2007), pp. 215-226
Article / Letter to editor
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Bestuurskunde, ihb interne org en werkw openb.best
Public Administration and Development
SubjectInstitutional Shifts in Government and Governance in a Comparative and International Context
Transparency is increasingly a general norm for government conduct, but it is not considered desirable in all situations. Leaking confidential information is a salient example of this. Leaking namely has a very negative connotation: it is associated with egotism, harmfulness and prosecution. Despite its impact, hardly any empirical research has been conducted to test these assumptions. We seek to redress the negative bias by discussing three sources of empirical material. Our discussion leads us to conclude that some officials leak for unvirtuous reasons but that many are actually driven by public interest. Leaking appears to occur quite often and within more or less stable networks of journalists and public officials. Leakers mainly prove to be higher ranked officials and politicians, rather than frustrated lower ranked officials. This indicates that generally too much is held secret. Increasing transparency may be a good measure to reduce leaking, because it removes the breeding ground for leaks. This would imply the need for a new definition of leaking that offers a clearer pretext for moral judgement of leaks.
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