Access to information is one of the fundamental rights of citizens, which the Afghan constitution has recognized this right for citizens of the country.
Article 50 of the Afghan Constitution explicitly states: “The government is required to take the necessary steps to establish a sound administration and implement reforms in the country’s administrative system. Afghan citizens have the right to access of information from government departments within the law.”
But journalists and media of the country have complained over the lack access to information and say that since the establishment of the national unity government, access of information has been limited for journalists.
A number of senior media and correspondents of Afghanistan contacted Nai office and mentioned following challenges in regarding of access to information:
The media and journalists are generally deprived of access to information on terrorist incidents and updates of it.
- The number of victims of the attacks on the Zanbaq square, the Intercontinental hospital, the Jamurihat hospital and … have not yet been determined.
- After 23 days of the terrorist incident in the Intercontinental, journalists have been still unable to enter the hotel and make report;
- They only allowed Tolo and Ariana TVs after 23 days to enter the Intercontinental hotel.
- Security officials are afraid of having interview with the reporters and media;
- Provision of information on massive terrorist events between the media and domestic and foreign journalists is discriminated by the government, giving priority to foreign media;
- With regard to the election, no details will be shared with reporters; the government only says that we are committed to holding the elections;
- Getting information from the National Procurement Office is in the form of notices; nothing more;
- There is a problem with the availability of information on the number of employees of the ministries, that some of them are related ethnicities or friends of the ministers. As it is not possible, officials in the ministries say that dissemination of this information is against the national interests and raises ethnic differences;
- Officials do not participate in political discussions. (A TV director says, “In the six days that we have a television program, the authorities will only participate in one program.”)
- Information on the negotiations between the (ARG) Presidential office and the Islamic party is not sharing with the media; the organ has not shared any information with the media in this regard;
- The result of the commissions that are created after events is not shared with reporters; events are being forgotten after passing of the time;
- The government agencies don’t have more information on access to information law or they don’t intentionally share information;
- The Supreme Court spokesman is not in contact with the media or at all, it has no spokesperson;
- The phone numbers of the spokespersons are silent or do not respond to reporters; if they respond, they will make excuses;
- Spokespersons are often overwhelmed by generalities and escape from responsibility, and sometimes they say sharing this information is contrary to national interests.
The Nai office, supporting open media in Afghanistan, establishment of limits on access to information is not only as illegal, but also continuing of this action will be harmful to the community’s safety.
Given the challenges and problems presented, The Nai office give a chance to the National Unity Government that before the beginning of this year, designate all the spokesmen and authorities responsible for information of the government in the center and the provinces and instruct them to provide information to the applicants in accordance with the law on access to information.
The Nai office wants from ordinary citizens and respected journalists, whenever they encounter problems with access to information, should refer to access to information commission and register their complaints.
We request access to information Commission to monitor the right to information seriously and address all citizens ‘and journalists’ complaints and introduce the perpetrators to the court.
Lack of access to information has caused major damage to reputation of the state. Whenever this problem (lack of access to information) leads to distrust of the media to the public, the media won’t inevitably pay attention to information provided by the government and referring to the unofficial information.