Japan adopted its first freedom of information law last week, giving citizens the right to request information on everything from how the government evaluates environmental hazards to how it spends tax money. Citizens groups have fought for the law for 20 years, and it is still weaker than most of them would have liked. Diplomatic, criminal, and medical records will remain off-limits, and initial requests for information will have to wait two years to give ministries and agencies time to prepare to abide by the law.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.