First International Day for Universal Access to Information

September 28th marks the first International Day for Universal Access to Information.

Recognizing the role of the media in ensuring transparency and accountability, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) joins the annual celebration in hope to promote and protect the right to know and access to information.

SEAPA presents these videos and reports to share the experiences and ideas of its members and colleagues on the state, implementation, and awareness of the right and laws in the region:

 

Southeast Asia

Notable progress in right to information in Southeast Asia

As the international community marks its first Universal Access to Information day, there was significant progress in 2016 on official policy among Southeast Asian countries on freedom of information (FOI) as two countries – Vietnam and the Philippines – passed new policies enabling the right.

Vietnam’s National Assembly passed on 6 April 2016 the country’s Access to Information Law, making it the third country in the region to have a national legislation after Thailand (1997) and Indonesia (2008).

Meanwhile, newly-elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issued in July an executive order on the Right to Information (RTI) marking a significant departure from the previous administration — which did not prioritize such legislation during its six-year term.

Click the link for the full report.

 

Cambodia

Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) Executive Director Pa Ngoun Teang shared how the government and the civil society are working together to draft a freedom of information (FOI) law. But he spoke of challenges as ensuring that the version passed will benefit all stakeholders.

 

Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Promoting good governance by increasing access to information and strengthening the independent media

 

See SEAPA’s 2015 Right to Know Series: Access to Information in Southeast Asia
The Right to Information: Status and Challenges

 

Indonesia

Eko Maryadi of the Alliance of Independent Journalists said reporting sensitive issues demand media practitioners to step up their professional and ethical capacity. He discussed the practice of access to information in Indonesia and what role journalists play in supporting the right to know.

 

See SEAPA’s 2015 Right to Know Series: Access to Information in Southeast Asia
The Right to Information Law of 2008

 

Malaysia

See SEAPA’s 2015 Right to Know Series: Access to Information in Southeast Asia
In Search of Freedom of Information and Democracy

 

Myanmar

Cherry Htike, managing editor of the Tachileik News Agency, shared how access to information complements and enhances the work of journalists in Myanmar.

 

Yin Yadanar Thein, program manager of Article 19 (Myanmar), talked about the process of drafting the freedom of information law in the country emphasizing the need for all stakeholders to participate and ensure that it will promote openness and good governance.

 

Thailand

ThaiPublica challenges the army to test the right to know law

This is the first case on record that a local media organization used judicial procedure to pressure a public institution to reveal information.

 

Almost 20 years after Thailand passed the Official Information Act, B.E. 2540, former senior expert on FOI Nakorn Serirak said that the law is useful for media and people who need government-held records. But there are still obstacles on how people access information.

 

Prasong Lertratanawisute, director of Isranews Agency, said Thailand has many legal mechanisms supporting the right to know: the Civil and Commercial Code, Securities and Exchange Act, National Environmental Quality Act, Organic Act on Corruption Prevention and Suppression, and the main one — the Official Information Act, which guarantees the people’s right to access government-held records. But with these laws still come problems.

 

See SEAPA’s 2015 Right to Know Series: Access to Information in Southeast Asia
Official Information Act of 1997

 

Timor Leste

Virgilio da Silva Guterres, member of the Timor Leste Press Council, talked about the state of press freedom in their country and the role of the media in a democratic society. He discussed how journalists can use access to information to properly do their jobs as well as why media and journalists’ organizations should initiate the conversation to push for an FOI law.

 

Philippines

Duterte shifts government’s access to information policy

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed an executive order “operationalizing in the executive branch the people’s Constitutional right to information and the state policies of full public disclosure and transparency in the public service” on 24 July 2016.

 

Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)
What now with this FOI-EO?

 

UNESCO resolution

On 17 November 2015, the 38th General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a resolution declaring September 28th the International Day for Universal Access to Information:

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