Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Access to Information

Afghanistan is in the list of countries where there is no legislation about access to information. Freedom of information is one of the important keys to democracy and its success. Access to information held by state is a legal right-to-know in most real democratic countries. Afghanistan being a democratic state should have the legislation, but unfortunately we even had not any discussion about it in the parliament.

Among our neighbors, only Pakistan has its Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002. Iran and none of our Central Asian neighbors have any such legislation. But they have their own systems. We claim to be a democracy, yet fall behind in the basic requirements that a democratic state should have.

For a new-born democracy like Afghanistan to flourish, the Government should make sure to bring a freedom of information act and debate about it in the parliament. Though we have relative media freedom compared to our Central Asian neighbors, or even Pakistan, absence of legislation on access to information is a hurdle for the booming Afghan media.

Rise of media outlets is the only accomplishments credited to administration of President Karzai, but in reality, the previous Culture and Information Minister, Karim Khurram, who is now the Chief of Staff in the Presidential Palace, used to create hurdles, rather than promoting media freedom.

It's not that the question about an access to information act has never been raised or talked about, but the fact is that the administration of President Karzai has not only shown lack of interest, but tried to keep a legislation from coming into the parliament.

One of the challenges for journalists in Afghanistan is the fact that the Government officials have been very uncooperative and not willing to share information. While making any report, journalists need accurate information from government offices, but the general behavior in this regard is very unhelpful. Even in absence of legislation, it's the ethical responsibility of the officials to provide accurate information to the masses through media.

The lack of interest from the Culture and Information Ministry regarding the access to information act is obvious from the fact that there is a draft with the Ministry, which is to be presented to the parliament for approval, but they are intentionally delaying it.

It has to go through a long process after being proposed from the Information Ministry to the Council of Ministers, approved by the MP's and then President Karzai. Now that the draft has been finalized, the Government should present it to the parliament soon.