Access to information is a human right — experts

2. Freedom of Information
Jordan ranked fifth in the Arab world and 82nd globally, according to the Open Data Inventory report for 2020. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
AMMAN — Every September 28, the world marks International Day for Universal Access to Information, and the role of access to information laws in rebuilding institutions to be effective in promoting the public interest and ensuring sustainable development, is discussed. اضافة اعلان

Jordan ranked fifth in the Arab world and 82nd globally, according to the Open Data Inventory (ODIN) report for 2020. ODIN assesses coverage and openness of official statistics in order to identify gaps, promote open data policies and improve access, as well as encourage dialogue between national statistical offices and data users. ODIN covers 187 countries.

The report clarified the importance of legal frameworks in enhancing access to the available data, including the General Statistics Law that regulates statistical work, the Access to Information Law that obligates the government to disclose information, and the Copyright Law regarding copyright protection (which was most recently amended in 2005). 

Experts told Jordan News said that any person has the right to obtain information and data, and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, which broadly falls under freedom of belief and opinion. 

Political writer Ramadan Al-Rawashdeh told Jordan News that “one of the foremost rights of citizens and media workers is the right to access information, especially with the advance of the technology and the information revolution.”

Rawashdeh stressed that it’s not possible to hide information from people any more. “Governments should be more transparent and facilitate the right of access to information. This is a basic right government should give to citizens so they may participate in political and public life,” he said.

Alaa Armouti, commissioner general at the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), told Jordan News that this day “is one of the most important and prominent international days; because it sheds light on the importance of information and data, and reminds countries and governments of the importance of accessing it.”

He added that this day is an opportunity for countries to review their obligations in the framework of access to information.

“Governments must review their legislation to ensure their compliance with international human rights standards that emphasizes the need for transparency, availability and access of information and data,” Armouti said.

He stressed the need for tightening penalties for anyone who gives false information, or impedes the process of obtaining information. 

Nidal Mansour, executive director of the Protection and Freedom of Journalists Center, told Jordan News: “In light of my experience in journalism, I can say that access to information and data is very difficult and complicated.”

He added: “I expected Jordan to be ranked further down the list than that. To be ranked fifth among the Arab world is something really positive.”

It is worth mentioning that out of 18 countries in western Asia, Jordan ranked 11th regionally in accessing available data. Among the Arab world, Oman topped the ranking in first place, followed by the UAE, Palestine, Bahrain, and Jordan in the 5th place.

In a statement, the NCHR on Tuesday called for promoting the right to access information due to its key role in promoting and safeguarding human rights, the Jordan News Agency, Petra reported.

The NCHR statement said that responding to individuals’ applications to access information would lead to increased transparency and help in combatting corruption.

Active participation in civil and political life and the management of public affairs require a smooth flow of information so that individuals can adopt influential positions, engage in public debates and influence decision-making, the statement continued.

This right, it stressed, would help protect economic and social rights through creating awareness among individuals and familiarizing them with decision-making and policy-making approaches.

The NCHR said that the pandemic came to emphasize the importance of free access to information to learn about the shortcomings, particularly in the health and education fields, the distribution of social services and others.

It urged the speedy passage and enforcement of draft legislation on the right to access information.

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