India amongst the top-10 countries for the relative strength of their transparency laws
Three Commonwealth Member States, namely, India, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka are amongst the top-10 countries on the planet rated for the relative strength of their laws that guarantee the people access to information from government and other covered organisations. The Maldives, Antigua and Barbuda, Kenya, South Africa and Bangladesh figure amongst the top-25 countries on this list. Mozambique, Pakistan and Guyana figure at the bottom of the list at #98, #89 and #84, respectively.
The Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Access Info Europe have released the latest ratings of national level information access laws of 112 countries on the occasion of International Right to Know Day, celebrated on 28th September, every year.
Readers may note that the information access laws in Sri Lanka and Kenya were enacted in 2016. The process of implementation has just begun in these countries.
Canada and Australia, which were the first amongst Commonwealth Member States to implement information access laws, figure at #48 and #40, respectively on this list, while the UK, which began implementation of its Freedom of Information Act more than a decade ago, figures at #33.
Mexico tops this list, pushing down Serbia to 2nd place, thanks to recent amendments to the Federal Access to Information law enacted in 2002.
Draft Bills on access to information are languishing across the Commonwealth- in countries like Botswana, Ghana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, the Fiji Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Barbados and St. Kitts and Nevis. In some of these countries governments have not acceded to civil society demand for enacting strong information access laws for more than a decade.
CHRI calls upon all Commonwealth Member States that do not have national level information access laws yet, to commit themselves to a reasonable time frame for completing the legislative exercise. Ensuring people access to information is key to deepening democracy, making public-decision making more participatory, ensuring inclusive, equitable and sustainable development and protecting basic human rights.
In addition to the highly rated laws mentioned above, adequate guidance is available for Commonwealth Member States in the form of model laws on access to information developed in the Organisation of American States and Africa to finalise the text of their own draft legislation.
The ranking of all RTI laws in Commonwealth countries culled out of the 2016 rating exercise is given below:
#8 Sierra Leone
#9 Sri Lanka
#12 The Maldives
#20 South Africa
#33 United Kingdom
Bermuda (not rated by CLD)
Self-governing territory in free association with New Zealand
#83 Cook Islands