Tunisia: Progress needed on access to information law
27 Mar 2014
A law that guarantees the right to information for all citizens must be adopted ahead of presidential and legislative elections later this year. ARTICLE 19 urges the interim government and Tunisian National Constituent Assembly (ANC) to take action to ensure legislation is passed to give effect to the right, which has already been recognised in the country’s new constitution.
A draft access to information law (draft law) was the subject of public consultation in August 2013. ARTICLE 19 is still waiting to see whether this draft law will incorporate a series of recommendations the organisation proposed in its legal analysis in September 2013.
“It is imperative that draft law is amended in line with international standards and passed to Parliament for approval. The right to information is guaranteed in the new Constitution and must be given meaningful effect. Everyone should be able to access information at every level of government” said Thomas Hughes, the Executive director of ARTICLE 19.
“Transparency plays a crucial role in strengthening democracy. Access to information facilitates democratic participation, stimulates public debate, allows people to make informed choices and increases accountability. The right to information has an essential role to play in supporting democratic transition in Tunisia” added Hughes.
ARTICLE 19 is particularly concerned that the draft law should:
- Ensure any restriction to the right to information complies with international human rights standards.
- Provide effective safeguards to ensure the independence of the Commission of Access to Information, including explicit assurances regarding its operational and administrative autonomy.
ARTICLE 19 also notes concern that existing measures designed to ensure government transparency are not being effectively implemented. A decree law passed in May 2011 provided that people could access administrative documents held by public bodies. ARTICLE 19 has gathered anecdotal complaints that public bodies:
- Are failing to provide information concerning the appointment of information officers;
- Are not making proactive disclosures prescribed by Decree-law No. 2011-41;
- Need to simplify procedures to enable citizens to make requests and obtain information.
ARTICLE 19 held workshops focused on access to information in Kef on February 26 and in Nafta-Tozeur on March 16, to discuss the progress and the challenges of the implementation of the right to information in regions.