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‘Access to Information Law needs further amendments to ensure transparency’

By Mohammad Ghazal - Feb 27,2014 - Last updated at Feb 27,2014

AMMAN — Raising people’s awareness of their right to obtain information from public agencies is crucial to boost confidence in the government and fight corruption, experts said on Thursday.

They called for amendments to the Access to Information Law, arguing that some of its articles are “loosely worded”, which makes obtaining information in some cases a tough mission.

“Accessing information is the key to transparency… we have a law that gives people the right to access information, but there are many other laws that hamper benefiting from this law,” Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organisation, said during a session to highlight the Nazaha Project. 

The UK-supported project aims to raise awareness of the legal and human right to information.

“The law is loosely worded, as for example it does not give the right to obtain information from semi-government and independent institutions. The law has loopholes that need to be addressed,” Abu-Ghazaleh, a former senator, said.

Minister of Public Sector Development Khleef Al Khawaldeh underlined the importance of information in building trust in government institutions, noting that the availability of information results in integrity, and credible and objective judgment.

“The law has many positive points, and it may have some negatives ones and loopholes, but the government is keen on taking all observations into account as part of its efforts to constantly update laws,” the minister said during the event, which attracted several experts in the field, academics and media personnel.

In 2007, Jordan endorsed a law that guarantees access to information. 

In 2012, amendments were introduced to the law enabling non-Jordanians to access information in implementation of international agreements that Jordan has signed, under which it is obligated to provide information to foreigners. 

MP Mustafa Rawashdeh, head of the Lower House Integrity Committee, agreed that the law needs some amendments.

“Not many people know about this law in Jordan and they do not even know the procedures about how they can use it to get information, and this is a problem,” the deputy said.

“The law needs some amendment as some of its articles allow for several interpretations and can be used as pretexts to hinder access to information,” he added.

Commenting on the Nazaha Project, Jeff Tudor, head of UK aid in Jordan, stressed its importance in enhancing access to information, which is a necessity at this stage.

Jordan has come a long way compared to regional countries in terms of facilitating access to information, Tudor said, noting that it is important build on that.

Established in 2013, the Nazaha Project supports civil society to defend and promote the right to information, ensures that citizens and civil society organisations across Jordan are aware of how to exercise that right; and monitors the application of the law to ensure that citizens are receiving equitable access to information.

Through working with local and national partners across Jordan to promote awareness of the right to information, Nazaha aims to ensure that Jordanians are empowered to participate fully in ensuring transparency, accountability and integrity at local and national levels.

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