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Yemen Badly Needs Law for Information Freedom
  Written By: Kawkab Al-Thaibani (FOR YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date:
December 15
, 2008



Most Yemenis know that property means their cars, houses, bags, etc; however, they do not know that information would be a property too, according to the legal consultant of Green Peace Organization.

In a two-day workshop organized by the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (known as HOOD) and the London-based Article 19 Organization, the participants discussed the different means for enriching a special draft law of "Freedom of Access to Information " which was proposed by Member of the Yemeni Parliament Ali Ashal, also a member of Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption (YPAC).

The workshop sought also to raise people's awareness about the draft law that was unheard of few years ago. Now, there are several law drafts for having easy access to information presented to parliament while there are several others in need for more time in campaigning.

YPAC draft law

Recently, a team of international experts from Article 19 received a copy of draft law on the right to have easy access to information submitted by MP Ali Ashal and the draft was highly praised by the team.

The draft contains several rights and it grants the different parties the right to have access to the official information. It dictates that a Yemeni citizen has the right to access information within 15 working days; otherwise, he can resort to judiciary.

Once the concerned official refuses to grant him access to information or refused, the official shall be sent for a three-month term in prison and fined at YR 150,000. However, it pointed out some exceptions where the officials can hide information especially those relating to the country's security, military and defensive strategies and tactics meant for defending the country.

This applies also to any confidential correspondences between Yemen and another country as well as information about investigations conducted by the prosecution about a certain crime or violation whose revelation could affect the collection of information and further evidences about the crime. These exceptions are made to safeguard the national security.

Despite the positive points of the project, several lawyers and legal consultants told the Article 19 and Green Peace organizations that draft law contains several defects and shortcomings.

They noted that asking for information does not include legislative and judicial apparatuses as well as popular institutions which implement works and projects for the government, adding that some texts need further details.

HOOD Executive Director Khaled Al-Anesi revealed that the draft law is good; however, it has some defects. He stressed that it is impractical for journalists or those having summary proceeding to wait for 15 days until they receive the information. He also referred to the text that demands the application to be submitted in writing.

NIC draft

Yemen's National Information (NIC), affiliated with the President, presented another draft law for information and it raged the participants, especially when the head of information services Sadek Al-Himyari, who represents the NIC, refused to publish the complete form of the draft law.

Al-Himyari only presented a summary of NIC draft law and justified this move by indicating that it is still processed in the NIC Legal Affairs Department. This made the participants enquire into the credibility of the project.

Replying to questions raised by some lawyers, Al-Himyari mentioned that any information which affects the national security should not be disclosed. He also revealed that this applies to information kept by the President or information that might harm the national economy.

Several lawyers and legal consultants pointed out that the law is full of shortcomings and further adds to the hindrances that stand before accessing information. Others described it as vague. 

Information and democratic society

Information is a key element for the development of democratic societies and it is effective for combating corruption, according to Ez Addin Al-Asbahi, head of Human Rights Information and Training Center (HRITC).

Al-Asbahi continued that the timing for publishing information is very important because social pressure will be then stronger than the legal accountability and this is why the recommendations demanded the government to start publishing information from right now and not to wait until issuing a law that regulate the access to information.