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Arabic Network for Freedom of Information releases report on right to access information in Arab countries

(EOHR/IFEX) - Casablanca, December 10, 2009 - "It is time for Arab states to pass laws that guarantee the right of citizens to access information . . . the Arab League has to adopt a charter on the right to access to information."

The Arabic Network for Freedom of Information, on the occasion of the World Day for Human Rights, issued a report entitled, "Defending the right to access information in Arab countries". The report includes an appeal to the governments and parliaments of Arab States to launch national discussions and work towards such laws that guarantee the right of citizens to access information. The network also appealed to the Arab League to adopt a charter on the right to access information, calling for the creation of transparency mechanisms in the operation of its affairs such that everyone can access information, documents and archives.

The report calls on international governmental organizations to include projects on the right to access information in their national and regional programs, as was done in other countries in Africa and South America.

The report included the international standards for the protection of the right to access information which are considered the main principle for all democratic laws. The report monitors the status of Arab countries as regards the protection of this right and also reflects the efforts of international and national civil organizations in some Arab countries, which work to defend it.

Mr. Jamal Al-Din Al-Naji, head of the center for media freedom, said: "We celebrate international human rights day and remind Arab countries that the right to access information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by international conventions. It is time that this be reflected in our constitutions and in legislation aimed at defending this right. The Arab region is still lagging behind the global trend represented by 90 countries that recognize this right."

Said Al Solamy, executive director of the center for media freedom and coordinator of the Arabic Network for Freedom of Information, added: "The network believes that the right to access information is the basis for other rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression. It is also necessary to establish a culture of transparency and for governments and departments to undertake the responsibility of public affairs. Media which can exercise its right to access information held by the State, can play an active role in monitoring and criticizing the government and developing its professional capabilities in the area of investigations that benefit the public.

The Arabic Network for Freedom of Information includes many Arab countries and EOHR is a member of the network.

For a copy of the report (in Arabic only) please contact EOHR.

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