Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CIJ calls on Malaysian government to enact a Freedom of Information law

Media Statement on International Right to Know Day

September 28, 2009

CIJ calls on governments to enact FOI law

As pressure for public accountability increases, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) calls on the governments of the Federal and State administrations to immediately enact a Freedom of Information law to open up the information regime of public bodies.

In commemorating the International Right to Know Day that has been celebrated globally on 28 September since 2002, CIJ takes this opportunity to remind the governments of their responsibilities towards citizens by being transparent and accountable in the public decision making process. The exposure of possible maladministration and corruption in a number of high profile cases in the last year alone makes the FOI law more urgent for Malaysia, where secrecy laws are enforced widely.

According to freedom of information advocates, at least 90 countries and territories around the world have laws giving members of the public the right to ask for an receive information from public bodies.

Right to information is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but it is not a guarantee under the Malaysian Federal Constitution. In its place, the Official Secrets Act sets the framework in which the government has been operating since 1972, one where the culture of secrecy rules.

The absence of a freedom of information legislation has allowed for abuses to take place in the public sector, and as global watchdogs have noted, contributing to serious corruption levels in the key institutions such as the executive, legislature, judiciary and the corporate sector.

CIJ has been working closely with non-governmental organisations in the last four years to draft a Freedom of Information Bill and since 2008, pushed the draft law for enactment by the Selangor state government under the Pakatan Rakyat rule through the Coalition of Good Governance. The coalition is a group of NGOs that came together in the post-12th general elections to strategise on democratic reforms for Selangor. CIJ is hopeful that the draft law will be tabled at the legislative assembly meeting in November this year.

CIJ demands that Parliament and the state legislative assemblies in all 13 states table a freedom of information law immediately and radically transform the way they should be accountable to the citizens.

Released by

Gayathry Venkiteswaran

Executive Director

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