By Omar Bihmidine
By Omar Bihmidine
Morocco World News
Sidi Ifni, Morocco, June 24, 2013
Hafid Rguibi is a member of the Moroccan Center for Research in Human Rights and Media Studies. As a teacher of philosophy in Sidi Ifni, Mr. Rguibi has contributed considerably to the field of human rights studies through taking part and organizing events at both local and national levels.
Recently, Morocco World New interviewed Hafid Rguibi about the right to have access to information, one of the hotly debated issues the current government is tackling nowadays. The debate of the right to access information has recently gained paramount importance all over the world and has pushed many countries to re-consider their rankings in terms of granting its citizen this right.
MWN: What do you think about the draft law project prepared by the Moroccan government to regulate the right to have access to information?
Hafid Rguibi: The draft law 13-31, which the government recently brought to the parliament for discussion, has come to implement Chapter 27 of the constitution. Here, the law aims at recognizing citizen’s inalienable rights to access and obtain information from the public administrations, state institutions and everyone in charge of important information. This law must be codified in tandem with some of the international terms featured in article 10 of the Anti-Corruption International Convention, 2003.
Among the reasons leading to this rampant secrecy in our administration are: expanding exceptions, extending deadlines, light penalties, and spreading some generalizing, meaningless phrases. In this regard, adopting some public policies that go against the principles of openness, transparency and accountability have also confiscated the right of citizens to obtain the necessary information. This is all for the purpose of fighting corruption as much as we can. It is worth mentioning that procuring this right will serve all citizens, particularly seekers of information.
MWN: How can we then attain transparency via the dissemination and flow of information?
Hafid Rguibi: First of all, the matter needs strict implementation of the law. Only then will we be able to see “the right to have access to information” being enjoyed by citizens. We also need to limit the exceptions, which must be justified in the most legitimate and accurate way possible. Here, a balance must be struck between the common good and private interest. Most importantly, we must implement the law properly and entrench in people’s minds the trait of transparency in imparting, disseminating and sharing information. This right is considered to play a crucial role in preserving freedom of media and freedom of expression. The latter helps enhance democracy and achieve societal developments in all forms.
MWN: Are there any international criteria and standards that this law must possess in order to be implemented properly?
Hafid Rguibi: For sure, there are standards and criteria that must be adopted to pass the law that regulates citizens’ right to have access to information. Some of the standards are adopted from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights. UNESCO set a model law for this mission. It is also recommended to learn from the experiences of more developed countries that have already taken this stride.
Under the name of RTI Rating, Access Info and the Center of Law and Democracy are seeking to evaluate the quality of “the right to access information” laws. These organizations investigate different countries and consult experts on this field. This rating system relies on a methodology that includes 61 indicators and covers seven fields. So far, the ranking has covered 93 countries that already passed this law of procuring information. In this regard, Serbia ranks first with 150/135 points, then followed by India with 150/130 points. The only three Arab countries covered by the rating so far are: Yemen (105 points), Tunisia (89 points) and Jordan (56 points). Yemen ranks 19th out of 91 countries, Tunisia ranks 41st, and Jordan 88th.
MWN: How about Morocco?
Hafid Rguibi: Morocco is in the process of preparing the law. The parliament discussed the law project, which was prepared by the government. This clearly means that the issue is in the hands of the Moroccan parliament. The mind-blogging choice here is: Either the Moroccan government makes amendments and passes a law that will allow citizens to benefit from the information they need, or Morocco will still retain its lagging ranking. By the way, Morocco will undoubtedly join the leading countries the moment Moroccans are granted the right to have access to information. We sincerely hope this. It will be a clear sign that Morocco is on the path towards democracy.
Edited by Allison Kraemer