Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Right to Information: The foundation for Anti-corruption Initiatives

The right to information is a fundamental human right that enables people to have access to information. It is a multi-dimensional instrument that serves both governments and citizens equally. Thus, the right to information is a fundamental tool to ensure anti-corruption measures in the country through making accountable the government authorities; it facilitates the meaningful participation of the citizens with the government and ensures that the citizens have access to information they need. Further, the right to information helps the journalists in preparing investigative reports from different projects, enhance public participation in political and other decision making processes and provide a clearer understanding of government policies and strategies.
The right to information is vital to ensure transparency, unveiling corruption, and holding public officials accountable in the country. A strong and informed legal action requires information, because we only can make an informed decision to know what has happened, what is planned to happen and what are the parties involved in the concerned event. We may seek information for specific events, projects, corruption and any other legal issues that require an informed decision.
Problems with accessible information
The people and media always face problems in terms of access to information; these include first, documents that are full of technical jargon, which is difficult for common people to read them; second, lack of trust of the information provided by the government officials to them, due to lack of people to the government; third, there is almost an absence of background information to support government decision making which results to ill-informed government policies; 4. Lack of organizational culture in public sector for information provision in Afghanistan.
National Security and the right to information
National security is a common problem in any country. Based on this, it is a very critical factor in Afghanistan in terms of access to sensitive information in specific and access to ordinary information in general. However, it shall not be sued as pretext by the government not to provide information to the journalists and the citizens too. Because, this issue has been considered in terms of the right to information according to the global principles on national security and the right to information in order to provides guidance to those engaged in drafting, revising or implementing the laws or provisions relating to the state’s authority to withhold information on national security grounds or to punish the disclosure of the sensitive information. Considering the current situation of Afghanistan that many terrorist groups are present in the country, disclosure of information is very sensitive and it is normal if the security institutions of Afghanistan act very cautiously in terms of access to information in the country. Thus, they shall act according to the international and national law, standards, and good practices. Indeed, theses address national security-rather than all areas for withholding information. All other grounds for limiting access to information must meet these standards.
Furthermore, many states including the Afghan state have adopted the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that ensures the right to freedom of expression includes the freedom to speak, receive and impart information from the State. As a result, the Afghan state shall comply with the obligations in the ICCPR, and should have mechanisms in place to facilitate requests for information and public authorities should have the capacity to process them and reply quickly and comprehensively.
Right to Information is one of the vital tools for an informed society and informed decision making. The Afghan State like any other state is not only obligated to develop a comprehensive law on the right to information but, also shall develop a comprehensive mechanism to ensure the access of the people to it. As wide spread corruption is one of the main challenges of the public sector of Afghanistan, ensuring the access to information by the people and media is a fundamental tool that can assist the State to tackle the corruption problem in Afghanistan in a systematic and result based manner.