A study issued by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms “MADA”, in conjunction with the International Day for the Right to Access Information, on Monday (28th Sep. 2020), recommended the utmost importance of adopting the Law on the Right to Access Information in light of the widespread of “Corona” epidemic, to reduce rumors and fake news, and enshrine a basic human right should the law be passed.
MADA’s publication of the study prepared by the researcher Munjid Abu Sharar, titled “The Importance of the Right to Access Information During the Widespread of Coronavirus/COVID 19”, included a representative group of journalists who worked on covering COVID-19 updates across Palestine, as part of its efforts and endeavors aimed at enshrining this basic human right and ensuring its implementation by passing a long-awaited Palestinian law, despite the repeated official promises to do so.
The study, prepared under the support of the open society foundations, addressed the political and legal environment in Palestine and its impact on adopting the Law on the Right to Access Information. It also tackled the importance of this right in light of the widespread of Corona epidemic (by addressing several issues, most notably the precautionary measures taken by the Palestinian Government and their impact on this right, managing the financial solidarity and the flow of information), and the reality of journalists’ access to information during the period of the epidemic and emergency state that was imposed and still in force in Palestine, in addition to the nature of the right, as well as the limits of automatic disclosure of public information by official institutions.
The survey of the study showed that 57% of journalists have not seen any of the law drafts on the right to access information that was proposed and have been under discussion for years, while 43% have seen all or some of the law drafts.
A similar percentage (57% of the respondents) described their knowledge of the legal frameworks governing the right to access information in Palestine as “poor”, and 54% considered the degree of public institutions’ disclosure of information pertaining to the Corona epidemic as “scarce” while 43% stated that it was “sufficient” and 3% described it as a “broad disclosure”.
Around 66% of the respondents stated that the official institutions were cooperative when the information was requested from them, while 30% were “conservative” on sharing their information, and 4% refused to provide any information requested from them.
It is noteworthy that the International Day for the Right to Access Information was approved in 2002 during a meeting in which dozens of non-governmental organizations working on defending the freedom of accessing information have participated, in which the global network of defenders of free access to information was formed, which identified and adopted four basic principles and pillars guiding their efforts and actions, namely: The right to access information is one of the basic rights to enjoy other human rights, the right to access information is the ground for achieving Government transparency and accountability, citizens will not be able to influence decision-making and public policies if they do not have access to information and the fourth principle based on the fact that exercising this right requires the issuance of laws that guarantee and regulate its practice in accordance with the international standards.
MADA Center, while reiterating the priority of adopting this law, embodying a basic human right and one of the foundations for enshrining democracy and involving citizens in adopting public policies, affirms the continuation of its efforts in partnership and cooperation with various official and civil authorities until it is approved and passed.