Access to Information promoted in northern Afghanistan
MAZAR-E-SHARIF/KUNDUZ – As part of the UN’s longstanding work to support media freedom and open society, a series of events promoting Access to Information are being conducted in northern Afghanistan with leading Afghan human rights, media safety organizations, local government and journalists.
The workshops and roundtable discussions broadcast on several local radio stations, organized by the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) sough to improve awareness of the Law on Access to Information and ways it may be better implemented.
In view of mounting challenges related to access of information and media safety, participants established the ‘Committee for Protection of Freedom of Expression’ for the northern region in Balkh province to oversee government’s responsiveness to reporters’ request for information and advocate for freedom of expression, as well as observe implementation of the access to information law.
The committee is composed of independent journalists, selected according to AJSC guidelines and will hold monthly meetings in Mazar. Balkh’s department of Information and Culture and UNAMA will have observer roles.
“Journalists are the eyes, ears, and the voice of our societies, we the government officials have a responsibility to first protect them against threats, bullying, and intimidation, and also provide them with timely, accurate, and useful information, they are those who keep us in check,” said Rubaba Nayebi, Balkh’s deputy governor for social affairs.
In Kunduz at one of the radio roundtables, Esmatullla Muradi the Kunduz Governor’s spokesperson assured participants that the government is committed to respecting the law on access to information and, “is conducting regular annual public accountability meetings and is establishing a provincial government-media joint committee.”
Mehrabuddin Ibrahimi a rights activist from Baghlan asserted that enforcement of the law on access to information “will increase transparency and accountability, and near the distance between the government and people.”
The Law on Access to Information came into force in 2015 and is grounded in article 50 of the Constitution of Afghanistan. It prescribes how Afghan citizens can have access information from state institutions.
“Despite the Law being in force several years back, it has not been implemented by local administrations, the government should raise their awareness about the law,” Hakim Hasas a journalist in Kunduz wrote on Facebook.
According to the Law, a national Commission on Access to Information was established in Kabul and every province should have a committee on access to information. The provincial committees should comprise members from government departments, civil society, and journalists.
Freedom of information or the right to information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. It is established as a right in Articles 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Afghanistan in 1983.
UNAMA’s mandate, as per UN security resolution S/RES/2543 includes support to Afghan Government and people to ensure promotion and protection of human rights and good governance.