MADA held a round-table discussion on the right to access information in Palestine

Ramallah /PNN/

Participants in a meeting organized by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) on the occasion of the International Day for the Universal Access to Information, which is internationally celebrated tomorrow Friday 28/9/2018, recommended initiating an advocacy campaign to pass the law on the right to access information, which has not seen the light despite the great efforts that have been made on this level for more than two decades.
The participants also recommended that efforts should be coordinated at the international level as well, by initiating the preparation of a joint shadow report on article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Director General of MADA Center, Mr. Mousa Al-Rimawi, opened the discussion highlighting the efforts of the Center, the civil society organizations and the UNESCO over the past years to pass a modern law on access to information.

Ms. Khawla Hanbali of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided a brief presentation on the state report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and pointed out that the report is supposed to be submitted on the 10th of December 2018.

Additionally, Mr. Ammar Abu Jamous represented the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights and briefed the audience on the role of the committee which was formed through a resolution issued by the Council of Ministers earlier this year under the chairmanship of the Ministry of Justice with the membership of (Ministry of Justice, Journalists Syndicate, Palestinian Independent Commission, Ministry of Interior and the State audit& Administrative control bureau). The committee finalized its task by July 2018 and reported the final draft on the law to access information for the council of ministers, no updates were provided to the committee up to now.

Noting that Mr. Ammar pointed out some of the PCHR reservations regarding the final draft on the law mainly, the mechanism of forming a general information commission and how independent it will be, besides, the fact that the draft included several loose terms as well as, the mechanism of exceptions

Dr. Essam Abdeen, Al-Haq stressed out the importance of this right as a cornerstone and indicator to the level of transparency in any system. He added, reservations recorded by the PCHR are essential as such loopholes may contradict the right itself unless they were taken into consideration, to achieve a well drafted and modern version in line with international standards.

The round-table discussion was attended by representatives from the Palestinian independent Commission for Human Rights, International Media Support Foundation, the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity- Aman, Al Haq, Pyalara, Meftah , the Bar Association, the UNESCO Office, Musawa Foundation, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Information, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the German Representative office in Ramallah.

Most of the participants pointed out the absence of the Palestinian Authority’s genuine will to pass the law on the right to access information. This requires urgent action in this direction, including the definition and awareness of the importance of passing this law to the different sectors of Palestinian society without exception.

Finally, participants recommended that “MADA” center through the coalition “Khaberni”, to come up with a proposal for an advocacy plan in conjunction with the invitations to other concerned institutions in order to expand the scope of participation in the coalition “Khaberni” and in the preparation and implementation of the plan, to be discussed and then approved by Civil Society Organizations, as well as the need to initiate the preparation of a joint shadow report on article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This activity is part of a project entitled “A step forward towards promoting freedom of expression in Palestine” supported by the European Union office in Jerusalem.