27.09.2017 - UNESCO Office in Rabat

The new Tunisian Authority for access to information goes public on the occasion of the IDUAI

A major step in the implementation of the Tunisian Right to information law (RTI) and completing the democratic transition was taken on Monday 25 September 2017 in Tunis, with the public introduction of the recently-elected nine members of the RTI Authority « Instance Nationale d’access à l’information » (INAI), on the occasion of the national celebration of the International Day for the Universal Access to Information.

The event was at the presence of the Tunisian Minister for the relations with the constitutional bodies and the civil society, Mr Mehdi Ben Gharbia, as well as of the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Mr Frank La Rue. Attended by more than 150 representatives from the Tunisian civil society and the media community, the celebration was co-organized by UNESCO, the UN OHCHR, the INAI, the Tunisian journalists’ union SNJT, and Article 19 NGO, and with the support of Switzerland.

«The right to information is a condition-sine-qua-non for democracy and freedom of expression» said Minister Ben Gharbia in the opening remarks. He talked about the importance of changing the mindset in the public administration at all levels to promote accountability and transparency, in a climate of serenity. He also ensured that the new authority would have budget and resources to fulfil its mandate. 

“This country should be proud of this achievement,” said Mr La Rue congratulating Tunisia for this other step forward in its reform process. He recalled his previous visits to Tunisia during the constitutional drafting process, and encouraged to move forward with the implementation of the RTI principle. The UN Resident Coordinator in Tunisia, Mr Diego Zorrilla, welcomed the establishment of the INAI, and reminded that RTI is in Target 16.10 of the SDG 16, aiming to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms. While the moderator, the journalist Ms Chadia Khdhir, mentioned that the Tunisian RTI law has been ranked by the independent specialised observer CLD among the top-ten in the world in terms of adherence to international standards. 

The President of the INAI, Mr Ahmed Hazgui, recalled that RTI is enshrined in article 32 of the new post-revolutionary Tunisian Constitution, and said RTI is “fundamental for the achievements of all other rights, including economic and social ones.” He also stressed the importance of an active participation by the civil society and the media community for the effective implementation of the RTI law. This role was also mentioned by the President of the SNJT, saying that the journalists’ union is “vigilant but optimist” on the implementation of the RTI in Tunisia.  Ms Saloua Ghazouani, Director of the Article 19 Office in Tunisia, recalled the key role the civil society had already in the formulation of the RTI law in Tunisia, including in promoting the independence of the RTI national authority.  

The importance for citizens and economic actors to be in the position to “take informed decisions” was mentioned by Ms Rita Adam, Swiss ambassador to Tunisia. This event coincided with the kick-off of the Swiss-funded UNESCO project to “Support the implementation of the RTI law in Tunisia,” which comprises the development of a coordination mechanism for the civil society, a pilot project of proactive disclosure, as well as technical assistance to the INAI. 

At the end of the opening session, the nine members of the INAI were called on stage. Elected by the Parliament, the INAI’s members are representing different components of the public administration and of the society: Mr Imed Hazgui, administrative judge and President; Mr Adnène Lassoued, judge; Ms Mouna Dahhene, statistician, Prof. Mohamed Boubaker Ksontini, specialist in ICT; Ms Roukaya Khammassi, lawyer; Mr Rafik Ben Abdallah, journalist; Mr Khaled Sellami, representing the Privacy protection authority; Ms Hajer Trabelsi, representative from the civil society; Ms Rim Abidi, archivist. 

The celebration of the International Day on Universal Access to Information in Tunis continued with technical sessions by the participants focusing on: “Open data and improvement of public services - initiatives and reforms,” and “Access to Information, Fundamental Rights and Sustainable Development - Experiences and Testimonials.” At the end of the day, three working groups drafted a set or recommendations, which will serve as a basis for a coordination and dialogue mechanism among the civil society’s actors as well as the development of a Plan of action for the RTI implementation in Tunisia. 


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