Afghan President Signs Access to Information Law

9 December 2014

Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani has signed an access to information law for Afghanistan, according to activists, who have campaigned for the law for about five years (English translation).

Integrity Watch said Dec. 1 that the action is “a positive step for promoting transparency and accountability,” but also said the law “needs further improvement.”

The group urged Ghani to amend the law to improve it, suggesting among other things that the newly created Commission on Access to Information be made independent.

Sayed Ikram Afzali, the executive director of Integrity Watch, said the presence of some “on duty government officials” on the commission ‘will undermine the independence of the commission and challenge the functions of the commission in addressing complains, because truly independent members who work every day on the applicant’s complaints are not considered in commission.”

The group also said the lack of clear definitions for such terms as national security and national interest “can seriously affect and limit access to information.”

?Annual disclosure of information is mandatory, the group noted, but there are no consequences provided for violations.

A requirement to use a government form to make a request, if obligatory, may be problematical and cause delays the group said.

According to this law, the Monitoring Commission on Access to Information can only recommend disciplinary actions against violators of the act and no fines are specified if information is not provided.

The law covers non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Integrity Watch said, however, that they should be accountable to provide information only if there is a matter of human rights or public resources.

Afghanistan is the 101st country to have an access to information regime.

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