JMI Students Recommend Adherence to International Standards for Access to Information Right

17 Feb 2020

JMI – Amman

Students in the Master's degree program of Journalism and New Media at the Jordan Media Institute (JMI) have recommended that the parliament and senate adhere to international standards and best practices in amending Access to Information Act, due to the significance of this in the transparency of governance.

During a session at JMI on Sunday, the students discussed the importance of the amendments proposed by the government on the current law and presented it to parliament. The government listed reasons for these amendments, such as enhancing transparency, integrity and combating corruption, in addition to augmenting the right to obtain information and empowering people to do so. 

The students considered the proposed amendments to be compatible with many standards such as proactive disclosure of information with this being a basic rule of limited exceptions. They affirmed that the gravity of applying the law is apparent in article 14 relating to the categorization of information. They also pointed out the necessity of submitting amendments for comment by citizens via the Legislation and Opinion Bureau, so that people can participate in decision-making. 

The students added that the amended draft of the law does not take into consideration expediency in disclosing information due to the extensive periods for answering or rejecting requests –which is similar to the current law- and that this produces an environment in which rumors may prevail. Further, the draft did not stipulate any penalty against officials who violate the provisions of the law or present incorrect or misleading information.   

Professor of Media Law and Ethics, Dr. Sakher Al Khasawneh, stated that the draft added a civil component to the Information Council via the addition of the heads of both the Jordanian Bar Association and Press Association along with representatives from competent civil society institutions, yet is still lacking since it allows officials to reserve the right to decline responding to access of information request. In effect, this de facto rejection of the request does not require the provision of a reason for doing so. Further, the draft maintains article 10 which prohibits granting of information to the requesting person if said information is of a religious, racial or ethnic nature or if the information is biased against a particular gender or persons based on their color. Al Khasawneh added that this could be used as a pretext to reject many requests in the absence of a clearer and more accurate standard. 

Dr. Abdul Hakim Alhasban, Professor of Media and Current Affairs, referred to the political, economic and social dimensions of information, explaining that the economy of today revolves around knowledge, with the availability of high-quality information being an important yardstick for humanity. He stressed that legislators must carefully consider this law accordingly.  
JMI, based on its values and objectives, works with its students and trainees, to affirm the right of society to knowledge, which in turn helps the media in improving peoples’ lives while also assisting in the build-up of democracy and positive cultural and social change.