The Draft Organic Law on the Right to Access Information (the Draft Law) represents a significant step forward in ensuing that all persons in Tunisia will be able to achieve their right to information. This measure will have a positive effect on both the public and the government as its successful implementation will increase accountability, reduce corruption and improve public services.
ARTICLE 19 would like to recommend some further areas where the Draft Law can be strengthened to better ensure that this goal is achieved. The key areas relate to expanding the duty on public bodies to proactively publish information; clarifying the exemptions and ensuring strong harm and public interest tests; ensuing the Authority is independent; and strengthening sanctions.
ARTICLE 19 urges the National Constitutional Assembly to take these recommendations into account and adopt the law promptly.
Key recommendations in brief:
- The systems for affirmative publication should be enhanced to include a broader range of documents for all public bodies.
- The exemptions should be further tightened to only apply to sensitive information that needs protection. No information should be withheld unless it can be shown that it would cause significant harm to the interest to be protected.
- Exemption 4 on the withholding of information simply because it is classified should be removed; Exemption 7 on privacy should be harmonised with the Data Protection Act.
- The public interest test should be expanded to cover all information in the public interest.
- Ensure the Information Authority is clearly independent and adequately resourced.
- Improve provisions on open data and reuse of information.
- Strengthen sanctions, including criminal and administrative sanctions.
- Clearly provide that the law overrides other laws and create a mechanism for the review and repeal of existing conflicting laws.
- Set the date of enactment for one year and delay the repeal of Decree-Law 2011-41 until the Draft Law is fully in force.
- Adopt a separate law to protect whistleblowers.