Transparency International calls on governments in Asia Pacific to strengthen their right to information systems and make information more accessible to the public. Laws need to be better implemented by public officials and used more widely by citizens, civil society and the media, according to a new report featuring 11 country-level case studies released to mark International Right to Know Day on 28 September.
Laws allowing the public to petition their government for information are currently in force in eight of the 11 countries assessed. However, existing legal provisions are full of restrictions and loopholes and do not promote transparency in most countries.
Vague, overly broad or controversial exceptions are abundant in the right to information laws of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Maldives, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Tests to balance the public interest of disclosing or withholding information are missing from most laws, or cover only a limited number of exceptions in Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan.
“Several of the countries assessed in this report have recently been rocked by corruption scandals involving senior officials and political leaders. Most continue to score poorly on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. A well-functioning right to information system is critical for exposing and deterring abuses of power and for supporting the fight against corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International.
More than half of the countries assessed are yet to establish a standalone information commission or commissioners to safeguard this right, train officials, promote the law and monitor its application. Most of those that have been established need to be more independent, or given stronger powers.
The report also highlights that freedom of expression - which is vital for the effective use of right to information legislation - is limited or under threat in several of the countries assessed.
“This International Right to Know Day, Transparency International urges citizens to find out about the laws in their country and exercise their right to information. In countries where laws do not yet exist, governments must act quickly to grant their citizens this important human right,” added Ferreira Rubio.
Right to Information in Asia Pacific: How 11 Countries Perform on SDG 16.10 evaluates and makes recommendations for right to information systems in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
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