Maldives Parliament OKs Access to Information Law

30 December 2013

The Parliament in the Maldives Dec. 29 nearly unanimously approved Access to Information legislation.

If signed by the president, the Maldives would be the 97th country with a FOI regime.

Passage “was an important step towards increasing transparency of the state institutions, ensuring greater accountability of public officials, and fighting corruption,” according to a statement by Transparency Maldives (also in Divehi).

President Abdulla Yamin Abdul Gayoom was urged to ratify the bill.

The bill was improved over previous drafts, according to Aiman Rasheed, Advocacy and Communications Manager of Transparency Maldives, who called it a “very good bill.”

Once the bill is ratified, subsidiary regulations will be needed, an Information Commissioner will need to be appointed and a support structure will need to be implemented, Aiman told Minivan News. The information commissioner will also be appointed by the parliament from names proposed by the president.

The new law will apply to all state-funded institutions, unlike a more limited access regulation instituted in 2008.

The law would mandate establishment of an information office in all state institutions, provide a seven day period for responding to  information requests and a 30 day period to provide the information or an explanation of denial.

Efforts to pass the law date back to before 2007 when a proposal was rejected. In August 2008 a new constitution was ratified which recognizes freedom of information as a fundamental right. After being reintroduced in November 2009, the bill was sent to the Social Affairs Committee. The final bill is an improvement over the version approved by the committee, Rasheed said.

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