Advancing freedom of information in the Middle East and North Africa
From 13 to 15 June 2012, government officials, civil society practitioners and journalists from Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia met in Marseille, France, for the workshop on Access to Information in the Middle East and North Africa: The Road Ahead. They discussed ways to further access to information, also commonly referred to as freedom of information (FOI).
The workshop was part of the on-going initiative, Regional Dialogue on Supporting Coalitions and Networking to Advance Access to Information in MENA, led by the World Bank Institute’s Access to Information Programme, the World Bank’s Social Development Department in the Middle East and North Africa, in collaboration with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability - Arab World (ANSA-AW). The event received the patronage of UNESCO.
The Phase I of the Regional Dialogue consisted of a series of videoconferences, in-country multi-stakeholder meetings and the establishment of communication mechanisms connecting participants from Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. The workshop held in Marseille, also within this framework, brought together multi-stakeholder teams from the target countries to reflect on progress made through the Regional Dialogue. During the event they jointly developed proposals for short- and medium-term activities to strengthen freedom of information, integrating them into an action plan for each country. Further, participants explored potential avenues for collaboration at the regional level. It is expected for a number of the proposed future activities to be supported by the World Bank Institute, the complementary regional programme, ANSA-Arab World, and other partners, including UNESCO.
The lively sessions allowed for the presentation of an overview of the status of freedom of information in each country, and for the provision of feedback on the proposed actions - both within and across country teams. International experts shared their knowledge of strategies and concrete steps implemented to promote freedom of information around the world, including coalition-building and development of advocacy campaigns. Participants also examined and discussed case studies that illustrated some of the complexities involved in translating freedom information legislation into practice.
Jordan enacted a freedom of information law in 2007, and has faced the difficult challenge of effective implementation. Tunisia adopted a Decree-Law on freedom of information in 2011, and published the circular regulating its implementation on 3 May 2012, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. Draft laws exist in Lebanon and Morocco, where advocacy for the enactment of FOI legislation inclusively and in accordance to international standards is underway. Further, the new Constitution adopted in Morocco in July 2011 includes a provision guaranteeing access to public information (Article 27).
UNESCO supports freedom of information through actions at the international, regional and country level. Freedom of Information: The Right to Know, was the theme of the 2010 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, held in Brisbane, Australia. At the regional level, UNESCO Rabat Office supported a regional study in 2009, developing benchmarking for Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, and comparing the status in the region to internationally-recognized FOI principles. Actions at the country level included the publication, in 2011, of the study Towards freedom of information in Morocco, authored by Perrine Canavaggio and Alexandra Balafrej. In cooperation with local and international partners, UNESCO’s Rabat Office has also supported a number of multi-stakeholder discussions to foster the free flow of information in the country, in light of international standards and good practices (read more: Right to Access Information: The Way Forward for Morocco).
- Access the Facebook page connecting participants at the Regional Dialogue on Supporting Coalitions and Networking to Advance Access to Information in MENA and others interested in sharing information about FOI in the Middle East and North Africa: Access to Information in MENA region.
- Read the monthly newsletters published by the World Bank Institute in the context of this Regional Dialogue are available (in English and Arabic): click here.