IFJ praises Kurdistan’s Right to Information Law
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) published a detailed memo saying that the Kurdistan Region’s newly adopted Right to Information Law (Law No. 11, 2013) is a relatively progressive piece of legislation. The new legislation puts Kurdisatn in 28th place globally out of 95 countries, garnering 98 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating.
"It is very welcome that the Kurdistan Region has adopted this law, joining other democracies by putting in place a system for ensuring transparency in government," said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. "While the Law is strong, there are a number of areas where it could still be improved."
The memo provides an assessment of the Law which takes into account international standards and comparatively better practices.
Weak areas include the procedures for processing requests for information, which are too brief and lack detail, and the regime concerning sanctions and protections.
The Law also fails to create a dedicated oversight body for information appeals (such as an informa- tion commission), allocating this task instead to the existing Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan Region.
The Law is, on the other hand, quite strong in terms of scope and the measures it takes to promote transparency.
Importantly, the RTI Law fails to include a provision calling for its rules to be interpreted in the manner that optimizes its effect on both the right to information and the wider benefits this brings.
It is not clear whether the RTI Law limits the right to make requests for information to citizens or applies to everyone. Article 2 refers to the right in terms of citi- zens only, while Article 4 refers to “every natural or legal person” and Article 5 to “every person”. It is best practice to allow anyone to make a request for information.
Articles 1(8) and (9) define information and documents, respectively, in a broad manner. Articles 4 and 5, which establish the underlying right to access to information, refer to a right to access both information and documents. It is important that, in practice, requesters are allowed to lodge both requests for specific documents and for types of information, which can then be compiled from documents, according to the detailed memo pub- lished by the IFJ.
"We welcome the adoption of this law in the Kurdistan region which will provide important protection for journalists so they can report on the performance of government and other public institutions without fear of punishment or reprisal," said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha.