Awareness of Kyrgyzstan Access Law Low, Study Finds

8 December 2010

Kyrgyzstan’s population does not demand information from public officials and many weakness exist in the implementation of the access law, according to a recent report.

The findings and a  series of recommendations are contained in a four-country study sponsored by the Open Society Institute in which requestors sought information, with mixed success.

“The main problem among the population is a low level of legal consciousness among its citizens and an insufficient level of awareness of the opportunities that the legislation of [Kyrgyzstan] could have towards enabling its citizens to demand information from state authorities and challenging its refusals of providing access to information in court.” according to the report.  It continues:

“Therefore, in Kyrgyzstan, there is no adequate practice among citizens to demand information from state authorities. We came to this conclusion by working with civil activists and NGOs, and listening to the requests which we tracked under the project.”

Looking at problems in state institutions, the report objects that under the law a request for information may be denied “just due to the existing secrecy label, without explanations of how distribution of information may threaten the legally protected interests.”

“In practice, the information of public interest, or for instance, the expenses for meals for people detained in the confinement place, often gets the secrecy label.,” the report elaborates.

The authorities are not acting in compliance with the Law on Access to Information , “in breach of Decree #240 of the President on implementation of the Law on Access to Information,” the report says. Further,  “For insufficient judicial practice in cases of freedom of information, the judges do not understand the basic principles of transparency and access to information.”

More training of civil activists on how to make requests and of public servants on how to handle them is recommended. State authorities should be made to comply with the law, the report says, among other suggestions for improving the situation.

The law should be amended to  “more explicitly” state  the restrictions to access to information.

Four-Country Study

The recommendations are contained in a report prepared by the Open Society Institute-Assistance Foundation, Azerbaijan. OSI affiliates in four countries – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan – made requests for public finance information and contributed to the report.

Hundreds of requests for information were made in the four countries and the results were tabulated and evaluated. The requests were submitted in each country during 2009 and 2010 by journalists, NGOs and citizens. They sought documents, descriptions of procedures and statistics, according to the report.

The highest level of responsiveness was in Georgia (80%) and the lowest in Ukraine (38%). The number of complete answers was the highest in Georgia and Azerbaijan, while in Ukraine only 38 out of 151 inquiries were responded to completely. Georgia also had the highest percentage of timely responses.  In looking at responses from ministries, the report found that “the situation was the best in Ukraine.”

The report is available in Azerbaijani, English and Russian at www.osi.az.


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