The Information Ministry yesterday announced that the draft Law on Access to Information is ready to be reviewed during an unspecified inter-ministerial meeting next month after it deemed that the draft’s contents are in line with international standards and the constitution.
It also said the draft law is part of the government’s administrative system reforms to push for good governance.
The announcement was made by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith yesterday during a joint event with Unesco to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information. The theme was “Access to Information: Leaving No One Behind!”.
The draft law is currently in the hands of the Information Ministry. It will be reviewed during an inter-ministerial meeting next month. After that, it is scheduled to be submitted to the Council of Ministers before it is sent to the National Assembly.
Mr Kanharith said the draft law currently has nine chapters and 38 articles in line with public interest.
“These legal documents demonstrate that the government is paying attention to people,” he said. “Its contents were drafted in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and international standards, as access to information is a fundamental human right that plays a vital role in promoting sustainable development.”
Sardar Umar Alam, Unesco representative to Cambodia, yesterday said the right to access information plays an important role in empowering people to have equal opportunity and promote sustainable economic and cultural development.
Mr Umar Alam said doing so requires the creation of Law on Access to Information and the strengthening of law enforcement.
He recommended that the government implement measures to ensure smooth access to public information.
“There are several other characteristics which should be built into the legal framework, including simple requesting procedures, effective and independent oversight, sections for non-compliance and protection for good-faith disclosures and proactive disclosure and promotional mechanisms,” he said.
“When it comes to implementation of access to information laws [in Cambodia], one thing is evident that institutional capacity building to better understand the usage and applications of the law is required, to have an effective law,” Mr Umar Alam added. “The public also has to understand how they can benefit from the law and it is necessary to raise public awareness about the new law and citizen’s rights.”
He noted that the government should continue working with its development partners.
“We have to work together to design promotional measures to improve the ability of public bodies to respond to [information] requests,” Mr Umar Alam said. “Effective implementation also requires robust capacity building programme to help officials understand and adapt to the law.”
Lam Socheat, director of the Advocacy and Policy Institute, yesterday said citizens do not yet have the full right to access public information because the Law on Access to Information is not yet adpoted.
“Civil society and youths of Cambodia are calling on the government and parliament to approve the draft Law on Access to Information as soon as possible…to address challenges and develop all areas with transparency,” Mr Socheat said, noting that the government should provide protection to whistleblowers, widely disseminate public information, and create an independent commission to address failure to provide requested information.