Should politicians withhold information from public?

Should politicians withhold information from public?

“As a rule, he or she who has the most information will have the greatest success in life.” - Benjamin Disraeli.

If arranged in the increasing order of usefulness then the list would be first data, then information and then knowledge. Data that is processed, to be useful is called Information. Information is more useful, but unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a proper format for decision making, is a burden, not a benefit.

Information, Knowledge and Experience collectively bring wisdom and are essential for betterment of society. Thus, information gives power and power breeds politics.

Political leaders in turn hold information that grows their power. Therefore those in authority will seek to manipulate others through the control of information. But does sharing of information mean inclusive growth and empowerment? Is sharing of information that useful? Or should information be withheld?

Have leaders, sharing information been more successful than others who are not? Let’s try to analyze this dilemma that whether politicians should withhold information from public or not.

No, information should not be withheld

1. It is unfair to withhold information. It is the right of the people to know what is happening in the country. The censored news seen during the 1975 emergency in India is an example of how people were unaware of the happenings. The government tried to cut the spread of information so as to stop the opposition force from gathering support.

2. Sharing information leads to empowerment of people and helps in growth.

3. The public have right to know where the country’s money is spent. Some portions of the budget are not thoroughly explained or discussed. E.g. Defense.

4. Under the defense budget lot of corruption takes place. Accountability and transparency is needed in that.

5. Transparency can prevent corruption and help people to hold the politicians and officials accountable.

6. Many politicians do not declare their own assets. They are public figures and role models of the public.

7. By hiding information or by giving misinformation the political leaders might propagate their own selfish motives or sinister agendas.

8. It is now said that ‘The new source of power is not money in the hands of the few, but information in the hands of many.’ Thus transparency and easy availability of information is needed.

9. As per Myra Kassim – ‘In the absence of information we jump to the worst conclusion.’ Thus information should not be withheld.

Yes, Information should be withheld

1. Information which would be concerned with national security, safety and welfare of the society should be withheld at all costs.

2. It is difficult to survive in politics if all information is revealed. It is the information that sets differences in a politician and others.

3. If information is released, not all will agree with the information and since we live in a democracy, it becomes difficult to take decision on critical matters with many opposing point of views.

4. Even in case of public good information should be withheld. For e.g. if a problem on economic front is revealed immediately before resolving, it can cause mayhem and it becomes difficult to allay fears of such a huge population. It can surely create panic. It then becomes very difficult to control the people. India is a vast country with huge population and some regions are difficult to communicate with. To allay peoples’ fears in such regions is extremely difficult.

5. The sharing of personal information of a politician is another demand. However such a move can affect their career. Opposition and enemies can exploit this information to compel the politicians to do their bidding or cause obstruction.

6. Rumors are spread using information to create chaos e.g. rumors regarding stock market.

We can see some consensus, even among those who ask for sharing information, that there is information that will always require protection and will never be part of the public domain. But this is only a small portion of the government data. An important issue in this context is how to determine the criteria that will decide as to what information will be withheld and what will be publicly released. A change of mindset is necessary here from hiding information to treating information as a catalyst that will create informed public opinion. Thus it is the duty of the politician to make a wise decision whether to disclose the information or not to the public; as per the level of secrecy it deserves.
Post your comment


  • RE: Should politicians withhold information from public? -Deepa Kaushik (09/13/15)
  • Politicians are a bit unlike common man in having extra information that is not only highly confidential, but also mandatory with the point of security of the nation. Politicians also have the category of being in the ruling party or the opposition. The ruling party holds the soul authority of letting-off only the required bit of information, all the rest of the politicians being equivalent to common-man befor law.

    Concealing the information doesn't mean to be corrupt or get involved in mal-practices and cheat the general public. Politicians should bear a motto in their mind that they are public servants and they need to serve for the betterment of the common man, leaving behind their personal interests and perspectives. Whatever information they share or conceal should have the basic reasoning of making the lives of common man safe and secure.

    Transparency and sharing of information can be differentiated by a thin line. Transparency should be in the initiative of the authorities, their honesty, their genuine efforts to serve the public, their dedication and sincerity in their work towards the upliftment of the nation. Sharing every detail can cause multiple effects.

    When the information is withheld by a group of people, there remains some difference of opinion whether to provide the details or not andif at all they want the details to be shared, they need to mark a strict circle out of which the information remains withheld. If we say every information should be shared, the receiving end in the common man, who is divided among various sectors viz. state, dialect, religion, caste, profession, age, sex etc. Though they get united when it comes to the nation, yet the differences do get erupted when the information gets perceived with different point of view. It becomes almost impossible to control the mob when any of the information agitates the country, causing a wide impact on every person in the society.

    Rather than facing a new challenge of perception of information amongst the common man, an honest and sincere politician can withheld the confidential details which could hamper the peace of common man and cause a threat to the security of the nation. But, the reason should be only for the welfare of the citizens and the country.