Kazakhstan: Honouring the public's right to know
ASTANA, Kazakhstan – 5 October 2010 – In a recent survey, over 70 percent of respondents said that it is impossible to access information from the state on certain issues. The Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan is responding with a new law on access to public information.
Each citizen has the right to freely obtain and disseminate information by any means not prohibited by law.
Paragraph 2 of Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhst
The survey (.doc) was carried out as part of UNDP support to transparency and access to information and justice in Kazakhstan.
With support from UNDP, parliamentary deputies and other partners took up the challenge by drafting a law on access to public information.
"When we talk about information, it’s not about some forms and blank sheets and so on – it’s not the point," says Kazakh Member of Parliament Zeinulla Alshimbayev.
"Any citizen who wants to know, for example, how much oil we exported and [to] which countries, what is the amount of profit we received, has to be provided with this information if there’s no secrecy about it."
The draft law determines what constitutes public information, and outlines the type of public information and data that should be accessible to the public, including gold assets, budgetary reserves, and the state of various sectors and industries.
The law also proposes that information related to sessions of various ministries and Government boards is accessible to ordinary citizens.
|Legal experts, Government, Parliament, NGOs and media discuss draft Law on Access to Information in the Republic of Kazakhstan|
Gulmira Kuzhukeyeva, a lawyer with Internews Kazakhstan, said that today there is no statutory act to cover all aspects of access to information in Kazakhstan. Instead there is a set of laws, decisions and instructions.
"The issue of access to information was always sensitive both for citizens as a whole, and for journalists in particular," she said.
Analysis of international and national legislation on access to information (.doc) showed that the draft Law on Access to Information in the Republic of Kazakhstan will help set up a unified system of legal regulation of citizens’ rights to information and ensure government transparency.
The draft law provides for a clear classification of information, and sets out the rights and duties of users of the information.
"The information should be conditionally divided into two types: information with limited access – state secrets, commercial and professional secrets, private lives of citizens and any other information to which access is limited by the law and the disclosure of which is a legal responsibility; all other information should be open and accessible to society," says Member of Parliament Zhakip Asanov, who is leading work on the elaboration of the law.
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds
A recent conference allowed discussion of the new law, and included representatives of the Parliament, the Ministry of Communication and Information, the Ministry of Justice, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Centre in Astana, the Soros Foundation, the media and NGOs such as Article XIX, Institute for War and Peace.
Experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UNDP also participated in discussions.
Opinions shared at the conference in late September are currently being considered during finalization of the draft law.
The draft law will then be submitted to Parliament for adoption, whereupon UNDP will help to pilot its implementation.
The conference was organized by the Legal Council of the “Nur Otan” National Democratic Party, Human Rights Commission under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Internews Network in Kazakhstan, UNESCO and UNDP - with financial support from the British Embassy in Kazakhstan, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Kazakhstan and UNDP.