A discussion about access to information with Mr. Fayaz Mehrayeen the political and social analyst.
Mr. Mehrayeen is the senior advisor of Governor of Balkh province. He is the author of many articles in the fields of political and social issues. Mr. Mehrayeen delivers constantly lectures and presentations to the academic and civil society groups.
By: Farkhonda Arezo Aabi, Journalist and human rights activist in Mazar e Sharif
Question: Mr. Mehrayeen! In your point of view what is access to information and what kind of situation does it need?
Answer: In my point of view access to information creates transparent, free and fluent relationship between state and citizens. Access to information means access of citizens to state resources, documents and information that foster the culture of transparency and accountability in the government structure.
Question: What are the proper policies for institutionalizing of access to information?
Answer: The public could have access to the accurate information while the reporters and journalists of Medias and other relevant organizations enjoy from the rights of access to information because they are delivering the information to public. To institutionalize this right firstly there is a need for a law in the country level, a law which contain and code this right and consequently all citizens and people particularly who are in the key positions of the government must be aware from this law. and they must understand clearly their obligations that the law binds them to not conceal information from media and public, this is the first step toward institutionalization of this right. Secondly depends to joint work of media and civil society efficient and sufficient public awareness programs to consolidate and aware the public to defend from their right which is having access to transparent information firstly and consequently do not allow the persons to violate the law or get advantage from absence of transparent mechanism for their own benefit.
Question: Access to information is called “oxygen of democracy” what do you imagine, is access to information a fundamental principle of democracy? Does absence of access to information law affect democracy?
Answer: of course freedom of expression and media is the inalienable element of democracy because without these freedoms, democracy dose not have its proper meaning. E.g. in case of election, the political power should be transferred periodically through free and fair election to a legitimate body called state which is the result of choice and desire of the eligible citizens. If people do not have access to needed information and there is no freedom of expression and media, undoubtedly there is a big fraud in the election procedure. Politicians easily using the lack of information of people and manipulating the procedure of election, therefore the impact of practicing of political right of uninformed citizens will be against the desire and choice of them. For sure access to information is the precondition for freedom of expression, media and democracy. The most convenient situation for freedoms makes the better ground for choice of well informed citizens. We can dare to say that without freedom of expression and access to information democracy will change to an ineptitude phenomenon. Therefore access to information is called “oxygen of democracy” and without access to information we will have so called democracy because uninformed citizens will be deceived easily and democracy changed to no functioning mechanism.
Question; Do we need access to information law in Afghanistan?
Answer: Not only now but from years ago we needed such a law to legitimize the access to information right of citizens, particularly the right of media and relevant civil society organizations and all citizens. We needed this law from years ago and maybe some problems that we face with, are because of absence of this law. Therefore based on the Afghanistan constitution and presence of international community and desire of majority of the Afghans we want democratic regime and already we have some achievement in this connection. But unfortunately still we do not have this immediate felt need law and we hope to be witness of drafting and ratification of this law by the effort of Civil Society and Human Rights Network. Further more we want to be witness of applying and implementation of this law not just ratification and hope this law not be overwhelmed like other laws because for institutionalizing of the rights only having law is not enough. Promotion the culture of freedom of expression, transparency, and legitimization, practicing the rights and applying the law is needed to be institutionalized in Afghanistan.
Question: Do you think what kind of efficiency the access to information law will have on affirming the state-citizens’ relationship?
Answer: hence; even in the personal relationship amongst tow friends, having transparent and clear information from each other plays a key role on building trust and affirming the relationship. Conversely lack of information plays a negative role in their relationship. Between state and people is also the same relationship because the state is the result of public choice. States without the right of choice of the people dose not enjoy its proper legitimacy.
living a number of people in a territory, having a state is not enough for a society but state must build trust and people have to cooperate with the state to enable the state to implement its development plans to serve the people.
Trust building needs public service and applying the access to information law from state side and advocacy and practicing the rights from public side.
To judge accurately the ability of the state and advocacy for strategies and policies for the benefit of the marginalized citizens well informed citizens needed. Therefore to adjust the responsibilities and obligations of both sides, having access to information law and the role of the media and civil society for public awareness is very important.
Question: In the short term, what kind of affect the ratification of access to information will have on rule of law and good governance in Afghanistan?
Answer: As mentioned above the drafting, coding and ratification of access to information law is the first step and by taken this first step an exit strategy from many problems will be clearly defined for the public and push the people to play their roles as supporter and monitor of state development plans. We clearly understood that one of the most prior challenges of Afghanistan state is corruption; it means that Afghan communities persistently are facing with challenges like war, poverty, corruption, smuggling and drug trafficking. In conclusion to tackle these issues we strongly need public support and trust.
Unfortunately in spite of a better context and opportunity for Afghanistan state compare to ex- Afghan states we do not succeed and do not have tangible achievements in the field of fighting against corruption and brining peace. It is all because of lack of public trust and support. On the other hand some of the authorities believe that they could conceal their wrong doing and insufficiency with no trial procedure. But ratification of law limits the conditions of corruption and makes the ground for better governance.
Question; The Civil Society and Human Rights Network is trying to draft the access to information law by conducting analytical symposiums, workshops, working groups among civil society organizations, intellectuals, lawyers and relevant state organizations to debate on draft law and lobby for ratification of it, what do you think about?
Answer: Of course the Civil Society and Human Rights Network and generally civil society are very mature phenomenon in Afghanistan but they did very good job and had positive effective on Afghan context and attitudes. “Drafting, advocating and lobbying for ratification of access to information law” is a remarkable initial of Civil Society and Human Rights Network. On the other hand drafting and sharing the draft law with other civil society organizations and different elites is a very good approach to include public desire and aware them from the content of the law. This approach will consolidate the public to include their desire and understood their roles as citizen to respect, practice the law and defend from their rights.