Access to Information Essential in ASEAN for Public Participation

Jakarta 28.09.11: On International Right to Know Day, ARTICLE 19, Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), Media Defence-Southeast Asia and SAPA Task Force on ASEAN Freedom of Information, urge the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to demonstrate its commitment to public participation by promoting access to information within ASEAN and among its member states.

Across the world, the right to information has been widely recognised by regional bodies and more than 90 countries alike as a fundamental right essential for the achievement of every person’s civil, political and socio-economic rights and as a mechanism to promote democratic accountability and good governance. These include the ASEAN member states of Indonesia, Thailand, and the federal state of Selangor in Malaysia.

ASEAN has been gradually moving towards greater incorporation of public participation. At the 18th ASEAN Summit in May this year, the Chair’s statement emphasises that ASEAN member states will continue to “encourage the participation of the peoples and other stakeholders of ASEAN” and intensify its work towards a “people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEAN”.

Regional bodies of a similar nature to ASEAN such as the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the Organisation of American States have adopted policies and mechanisms to provide access to public information. In Africa, the recent adoption of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) declaration on 19 September marks a landmark development for governments and civil society to work together to fulfil the right to information in the continent.

ASEAN must join these regional bodies to promote access to information, especially if it is serious about achieving its aims of good governance and transparency as outlined in its ASEAN Political Security Community blueprint, and increasing engagement and participation of the people under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community blueprint.

As an initial step, ASEAN should adopt a joint declaration on access to information, to pave the way for integrating international standards of the right to information into ASEAN and the national policies of its member states.

We encourage ASEAN to adopt a declaration that:

  • Affirms that everyone has the right to seek, receive, access and impart information and that access to information is a requisite for good governance, transparency and public participation.
  • Urges its member states to respect and promote access to public information and to promote the adoption of any necessary legislative or other types of provisions to ensure its recognition and effective application.
  • Adopts a right to information policy to disclose public information proactively and upon requests from the public information held by all ASEAN-bodies.

We also encourage the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR) to guarantee the right to information and freedom of expression in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration that is currently being drafted, and undertake a thematic study on access to information among ASEAN member states. (SEAPA statement)

ENDS

For more information, please contact:

  • Amy Sim, ARTICLE 19 Senior Asia Programme Officer, amy@article19.org or call + 44 (207) 324 2511.
  • Gayathry Venkiteswaran, SEAPA Executive Director, Gayathry@seapa.org, or call + 66880174810.
  • H R Dipendra, Media Defence-Southeast Asia Executive Director, dipendra3000@gmail.com, or call +60133661222