250th anniversary of first Swedish Press law granting Access to information

PNN/ Ramallah/

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)in collaboration with The Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem and Representative Office of Finland in Ramallah, Organized an event commemorating 250 years of the enactment of the first press law that granted access to information in “Kingdom of Sweden”.

The commemoration included the participation of several parts (Ann-Sofie Nilsson Consul General of Sweden in Jerusalem, Pirkko-Liisa Kvostila Head of Representative office of Finland, Dr. Ghazi Hanania chairman of board for MADA, Mousa Rimawi General director of MADA, Hala Tannous UNESCO office in Ramallah, Rasha Amarneh Anti-corruption commission Mohammad Munjed on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, and Salah Maharqah MDC and representing “Khabirni Coalition”) in addition to journalists, and representatives from different Civil Society Organizations and International representative offices and organizations.

Rimawi highlighted some of MADA’s achievements during the past 10 years, as the most prominent achievements relate to the fact of MADA’s leading role in defending freedom of expression and media in Palestine, in addition to granting MADA a special consultative status at the ECOSOC, and electing MADA as a member in the steering committee of GFMD.

Dr. Ghazi Hanania illustrated that important part of MADA efforts and activities was granted to ensure a healthy legal environment and contribute. He also added “based on that we started since around four years, enormous and systematic efforts to ensure achieving our goal “the enactment of access to information law in Palestine”, which became today attainable, thanks to several Civil Society Organizations partners particularly Khabirni coalition in collaboration with Governmental institutions.

Dr. Hanania emphasized the importance of enacting the law “we hope that before the end of the year; as promised by prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah in our last meeting with him few months ago, which was later confirmed in another meeting by Mr. Ali Abu Diak Minister of Justice with Kahbirni coalition two months ago”.

Dr. Ghazi also praised all efforts of all MADA’s partners from CSOs particularly Khabirni coalition, and all governmental bodies including (Prime minister office, and both Ministries of Justice and Information, besides the Anti- Corruption Commission, additionally and international organizations (The Representative office of Finland in Ramallah, UNESCO, EU, DCAF, IFEX, Center of Law and Democracy (in Canada), FOI advocates net, Arabic Network for freedom of information, who whether contributed to enacting access to information law, or through promoting the significant importance of the law, or engaged in training and advocating for the law, special thanks also to the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), who led the campaign for the inclusion of the law in the UN SDGs.

The General Consul of Sweden in Jerusalem Ann-Sofie Nilsson highlighted that the Swedish law is based on four major principles that formed the basis of freedom of opinion and expression in Sweden, including inter-alia: Cancelling the governmental control, providing the access of public documents that are no longer considered as (secret) accessed and distributed, and the transition from prohibition and prevention to permissibility allowing printing and publishing, and the consecration of freedom of the press and ensure their protection in the Swedish Constitution.

She also clarified that the criticism of the ruling class before the enactment of this law was not acceptable, noting the importance of this law in the fight against corruption and enabling citizens to access to documents and monitor it, and thus control over the government’s performance that contributes to the fight against corruption, which culminated in the strengthening the Swedish public confidence in its democratic institutions.

She also added that freedom of opinion and expression is still under violations and threats in several countries, and we want to guarantee that access to information and freedoms are part of our efforts in supporting sustainable development on the international level, she also praised all efforts that Palestine is exerting in defending media freedoms, and proud her country supporting these efforts.

Pirkko-Liisa Kvostila Head of the Representative office of Finland in Ramallah, assured that freedom of expression can’t be achieved spontaneously, noting that the adoption of the law on access to information in Finland (which was part of the Kingdom of Sweden by that time) canceled state censorship and opened the door for access to governmental documents.
Kvostila illustrated to the track of evolution defending freedom of expression in her country, which was ranked the first internationally for years; in media freedoms and freedom of expression “we fought for freedom of expression and opinion and for more freedoms”.

She also added “we are glad that Palestinians are working toward the enactment of a law to access information and freedom of opinion and we support these efforts”.
Muhammad Munjed on behalf of ministry of justice, clarified that they are in process of reforming and enacting several laws, similar to (money laundering law), to ensure transparency and integrity, adding that the law of access to information serves the goals of sustainable development.

He noted also the promise of Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice to passing an access to information law, until the end of this year, hoping to be followed with concrete action on the Palestinian law on archives and documents related to access to information”.

Besides Rasha Amarneh on behalf of the anti- corruption commission clarified that this law contributes to fighting corruption into two main levels: first the role of the law as a preventive measurements or tool in fighting corruption, and in detecting corruption and addressing all violations that might occur, noting that the prevention of corruption is based on the principle of transparency, which is one of the most important measures to combat.
She also added that” “Integrity is achieved through law enforcement (access to information law) as it enables the citizens to control over decisions and public policies, as integrity and transparency can never be realized under secrecy”.

Furthermore, Hala Tannous on behalf of the UNESCO office in Ramallah, emphasized that freedom of expression and opinion is based on two significant level: first on access to information and to distribute information, clarifying that adopting a law in this regards has always been one of the UNESCO major recommendations.
She also praised the collaborative role on drafting a Palestinian access to information law, illustrating that all these efforts will be achieved soon, in a modern law well harmonized with international standards.

She also added: this right is now adopted as part of the sustainable development plan on the international level, as many states adopted through their legislation the right to access information yet it’s never guaranteed without enacting a specialized law in this matter”

Saleh Masharqa on behalf of MDC, and also representing Khabirni coalition assured that several states adopted laws in this regard, yet they remained “ink on paper” if they aren’t implemented truly, as we in MDC we worked on different angle to ensure the well implementation of the law, hence first recommendation of our study to several CSOs to hold training for their staff on this regard, and to ensure the inclusion of this law in courses at Birzeit University to ensure that our students are informed and educated in accordance to access to information right and the practice and enjoyment of the right”.

Masharqa reiterated the attempts of Khabirni coalition to endure all efforts needed to ensure the enactment of access to information law that is fed with researches and debates”.