In this analysis, ARTICLE 19 reviews Iran’s Publication and Free Access to Information Act and makes recommendations for its improvement.
The right of access to information held by public bodies is recognised worldwide in both United Nations (UN) documents and national laws. The adoption of the Publication and Free Access to Information Act 2009 and the regulations implementing it are a positive first step in enabling the right in Iran. Every Iranian citizen should be able to use the law to obtain information from public bodies and other institutions doing public business to find out how public money is being spent, decisions that affect their communities, and other information important to their lives.
However, the law does have problematic provisions that undermine its effectiveness and make it weaker than international standards and the laws of many neighbouring countries. There are many unclear or undefined provisions where additional bylaws are necessary to clarify them, it only applies to citizens, the exemptions are broad, the appeals mechanism is unclear, and the oversight body is housed within a public body known for limiting access to information. It also includes a number of provisions unrelated to its primary purpose that appear to threaten free expression.
Implementation has also been very slow, with some key provisions only being implemented now, eight years after its adoption. It is important that the government now fully implements the law and begins a process to review and revise some of the provisions to fully enable the right of information in Iran.
There are numerous provisions within the law and its bylaws that should be revised as a long-term aim. In the meanwhile, we urge the government to take administrative measure to improve the implementation of the law as a first step. Some of the initial activities in this regard should include:
- Making the annual reports of the bodies and Information Commission public;
- Creating a new bylaw on the appeals mechanism, including its independence from the Ministry’s other functions, time frames for Commission decisions and the process for making them binding; and
- Adopting a bylaw on reuse of information and data obtained under its provisions.