Afghan Media, Civil Society Urge Introduction of FOI Bill

6 August 2010

Media and civil society organizations in Afghanistan are pushing for passage of a freedom of information law.

The groups issued a statement July 18 arguing for such a bill and proposing what should be in it. 

They asked for legislation that would:

  • Ensure the right to information that is either held by or under the control of public and private bodies, including assistance providers and subcontractors.
  • Provide fines and sanctions for officials who withhold public information.
  • Publicize the procedures for getting information and specify the responsibilities of civil servants.
  • Ensure the right to photocopy original documents so individuals can study the information on their own.
  • Provide complaint mechanisms, including a hotline.

The explanatory statement noted:

By the Afghan constitution, citizens have the right to ask what public institutions do but the supportive legislation is currently missing. The Act of Access to Information would empower citizens and help the central government in ensuring access to public services at provincial and district levels while assuring a fair distribution of wealth and promote trust in the state. The Act will also help Afghanistan to hold aid providers accountable to the needs of the Afghan population.

The statement came from 17 civil society actors, representing more than 200 civil society organizations, and several media organizations.

Separately, the Afghan Analysts Network commented:  “The demand is an important one. The pervasive ambiguity, the lack of clarity on what the rules are and the lack of transparency on how they are implemented within government institutions undermines the efforts towards better governance and the strengthening of citizen’s rights.”

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