Integrity Watch Afghanistan has warned that if President Ghani and National Council do not take any step for amendment of the law, Afghan people will face serious problems.
Officials in Integrity Watch emphasized that due to failure in access to information law, 70 % of Afghanistan population that includes women and disables are deprived of the access to information.
Previously, President Ashraf Ghani has signed the new Access to Information Act, ratifying the 6 chapters and 32 articles that deliver Afghans unprecedented transparency in the state institutions.
The law lives up to international standards and will have major effects in limiting corruption, localising democracy and strentghening the people’s political and social participation in state building.
People will gain access to state and public budgets, and official spokespeople will be inclined to share information with journalists and citizens.
“The access to information law has many gaps and weaknesses and we are afraid of its amendments failure that would cause many problems for Afghan people,” head of advocacy group of Integrity Watch, Habibullah Maqbel said.
“Parliament and the government should amend access to information law and also consider the recomandations of the civil society that the background of information provides,” Samiullah Popalzai, member of advocacy group of Integrity Watch said.
There is, however, still quite some way to go. Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and having a great law on paper does not mean much if it is not implemented in practice.
Implementation of the law is one of the biggest challenges. A joint working force was developed between presidential office and civil society to monitor the implementation of the law.
The law follows the internationally accepted principle of maximum disclosure of information. That is, all information held by the government should be presumed to be public with minimal exceptions.
In Afghanistan’s new law, limitations on access to information are restricted to situations where disclosure poses legitimate harm to public or private interests.
This include cases where national security is concerned, where a citizen’s rights may be violated, where the release of information would obstruct the detection or investigation of a crime, or where the life, property, honor, or prestige of a person would be endangered.
It is hoped that the new rules surrounding access to information will help increase the public’s trust in government.
In a country that was ranked 172 out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, the potential benefits of the law are clear.
The lower house of the Afghan parliament (Wolesi Jirga) has approved Access to Information Law with some amendments by a majority of votes in June 30, 2014.