Yemeni Parliament Passes Right to Information Law

4 May 2012

Yemen’s parliament April 24 approved a right to information bill.

 The legislation was first presented in 2008 by MP Ali Hussein Ashaal, of the Islah party, according to a Yemen Times article. “This was followed by another draft presented by the Ministry of Information, and since deliberations on both drafts have been proceeding off and on until recently.”

An unofficial English translation has been prepared by the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP).

The outcome was “a combination of both drafts, making Yemen only the second Arab country after Jordan to issue such a law,” the paper said. Jordan has a FOI law.

Describing the Yemen legislation, the article says:

The law stipulates that every government has to dedicate a media person to answer applicants within ten days of a request. A penalty up to six months imprisonment was stipulated for any individual who prevented or stalled the providing of information requested within the ten days. Moreover, those who acquire information illegally and publish it could face imprisonment of up to two years.

It was not clear in the law to what extent access to information applies to the private sector.

The law comprising of 66 articles, includes clauses for protecting privacy, and the protection of privileged information, such as information that affects fair competition, copyright, military strategies and foreign policy.

The Times article quotes Basheer Al-Maqtari of the state-run National Information Center, as saying, “The law was passed because of international pressure and is not really complete,” He also said,  “For example, it ignores applications for information from non-Yemenis and it does not cover international companies working in Yemen.”

The Times says:

The delay in approving the law was a concern for many human rights and media organizations. The Economic Media Center last month presented a petition to the parliament signed by over a hundred civil society activists, demanding the law to be passed soon.

Before the law comes into force, it requires the signature of the president, which according to the constitution should happen within days of the parliament’s decision.

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