The Centre for Defending Freedom of Journalists welcomes the decision of Dr Omar al-Razaz’s government to withdraw the project of the amended law guaranteeing the right to access information from the Parliament.
The Centre described this step as both positive and brave, and considers it an opportunity for the government to implement radical amendments in coordination and cooperation with relevant parties to guarantee that the law plays its new role in ensuring the community’s right to information.
According to the Director of Operations at the CDFJ, Nidal Mansour, “We have been asking for the withdrawal of this amended draft law since it was first presented to parliament in 2011. Although we acknowledge that the amendments were positive, and that we do support them, we have informed all parties in the country that it is not enough, and that there are in fact essential articles in the law that must be amended or repealed because they contribute to the possible disruption of the law’s enforcement and also to the detriment of the people’s benefit from it.”
He further pointed out that the launch of the “right to know” platform as a response to and containment of rumors does not achieve its intended goal if it does not include the right of the people to access information and answers to their questions, or provide for the prior disclosure of information from all public state institutions, thereby nipping in the bud the issue of rumors and their containment.
Mansour also announced that the Centre for Defending Journalists, which has been working for years on the project “Eiraf” to institutionalize transparency and the right to information, is prepared to put all of its experience and efforts into helping the government in its revision of the law and to make adjustments to address challenges facing the right to access information, since the world has become a small global village and social media and communicative technology have ended the world of secrecy and privacy.
Mansour called for the government to take into consideration the following when revising the law:
It is important and necessary that the law guaranteeing the right to access information will, in future amendments, take precedence over other legislation that impose confidentiality of information, including but not limited to “The Protection of State Secrets and Documents Act”.
The reduction of exceptions provided in the law in accordance with international standards, because an abundance of exceptions will make the law ineffective and does not ensure free flow of information.
Annulment of the requirement for a legitimate interest in order for the applicants to be able to access the right to information.
Establishment of controls on archiving and classification in step with good international practice, and ensuring the right to challenge the classification of information.
The provision of penalties for those in public institutions who deliberately fail to provide information to the public.
The provision of penalties and accountability for those who deliberately destroy information and documents.
Ensuring the independence of the Information Council in the amendments, and include in it experts, representatives of civil society institutions and the public rather than simply limiting it to government representatives.
Mansour stressed that Jordan was in the lead in passing a law guaranteeing the right to access information, but that many of the countries which have caught up and overtaken Jordan have passed laws which are more in line with international standards. He also appealed to the Prime Minister, Doctor Omar al-Razaz, to take another courageous step to support the freedom of expression and the media and to protect public freedoms by withdrawing the draft cyber-crimes law from Parliament and re-examining the extent of its necessity alongside the problems that will result from it, and its ultimate impact on Jordan’s international image.