Morocco is working to expand people’s access to information after the new law on access to information has come into force.
By Ahlam Ben Saga & Mohamed Amine Benabou
Rabat – The Moroccan Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani has promised to ensure equal access to information, as per Law 13-31 on the right to access information.
During the weekly government council on Thursday, March 14, El Othmani called on administrations to proactively release information citizens and businesses request and to make the documents to request information available on their websites.
El Othmani stressed that institutions across the country should abide by the law, which came into force on March 12, and to proactively offer information before they receive requests.
Administrative institutions should also provide information without delays, said El Othmani.
Under the law, administrations are bound to respond to information requests in no less than 20 days. In cases of emergency, citizens must acquire the information in less than 3 days. However, the government can decide to keep information inaccessible when it comes to “safety reasons or life and freedom of individuals.”
El Othmani emphasized that the new law will play a major role in enhancing the transparency and credibility of administrations in terms of published information.
“Therefore, we are pleased with Law 13-31 because it establishes the right to obtain information in accordance with the conditions stipulated, and this will have a positive impact on the relationship between citizens and administrations,” said El Othmani. Although the law only went into effect this week, the 2011 Constitution already guaranteed the right in Article 27.
Article 27 stipulates that “citizens have the right to obtain information held by public administrations, government institutions, and public entities.”
Be patient: Administrations have one year to comply
On the occasion of law’s enactment, El Othmani congratulated associations and civil society in their role to bring the law into existence.
The Moroccan Parliament had adopted the right to information law in February 2018, but its implementation was delayed for more than a year.
The law is also not yet applicable because institutions and administrations have to prepare to facilitate the process of disseminating information.
The government has granted a one-year delay before institutions must comply for this reason.
Law 13.31, contains eight articles dictating that all Moroccan citizens have the right to access information to ensure transparency, counter corruption, boost the administration’s openness, and establish a culture of good governance and democracy.
Free speech implications
The law also has serious implications for freedom of speech. Article 6 warns against promoting false information aiming to damage the reputation of individuals, compromising rights, or impairing the public interest, especially if the information will jeopardize the kingdom’s relationships with other countries, international organizations, or the state’s monetary, political, and financial politics.
Breaking the law can result in 6 months to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of MAD 150 to MAD 1,500. Offenders can also lose their civil, political, and family rights.
The person in charge of delivering information is also subject to disciplinary measures.
Cooperation on right to access information
In February, Morocco and UNESCO signed an action plan on the right to access information.
The action plan strives to enable Moroccan citizens to access “detailed and transparent” information.
It also seeks to allow Moroccans to make their own decisions based on accurate data so that they can fully contribute to the democratic process in the country.
In April 2018 Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as part of 70 countries, 20 local governments, and thousands of civil society organizations. The aim of the OGP is to foster principles of transparency, accountability and improved civic participation in policy-making.