I ran across the article in today’s Jordan Times and I don’t want to go into some type of long winded analysis of the subject. I’d rather post the highlights and pose the obvious question. I’m sure after reading it you’ll have a few you’d like to pose to your Member of Parliament as well.

Poll reveals MPs’ contradictory positions on Access to Information Law

A majority of deputies voted against their own declared positions of granting citizens the right of access to information, according to a recent poll carried out by the Arab Archives Institute (AAI).

Although 94 deputies (out of 95 polled by the institute) confirmed that they believed in the citizen’s right of full and unfettered access to information in relation to general health issues and the situation of women, the actual voting was in favour of blocking this right and giving the executive authority the right to control it, the poll revealed.

In the opinion poll, carried out by AAI in cooperation with IREX (the USAID-funded Jordan Media Strengthening Programme) shortly before discussion of the law and its enactment, 92 deputies confirmed that they agreed to the public’s right of access to information in general.

The number of MPs decreased to 84 when the question was related to the right to information on minorities in the Kingdom, and dropped further to 77 with regard to releasing information on Palestinians in Jordan.

This majority, however, was completely absent when the Lower House voted on the law, according to an AAI statement.

Article 10 of the law, which deprives citizens from accessing information related to discrimination in religion, sectarianism, race, colour or sex, was endorsed without discussion.

The law, which was approved by Parliament in April this year, gave the government wide powers to control the flow of information and deprived the public from accessing basic information, the AAI statement said.

The legislation allows for the establishment of an information council whose task — theoretically — is to ensure the provision of information and examine complaints. The council, however, consists of six representatives from the government, one from the armed forces and two from state human rights and information centres, according to the institute.

Discussions on the bill, considered one of the most important laws on freedoms, were conducted in haste and shrouded in secrecy, the statement said.

It took the designated committee less than half an hour to introduce amendments and less than two hours for the House to discuss and endorse the changes, AAI said, adding that no specialists or activists were invited to offer their suggestions.

While the law is hailed as the first bill of its kind in the Arab region, it restricts access to information and bans citizens from obtaining information containing secrets and protected documents, according to Article 13, which remained unchanged.

Deputy Mahmoud Kharabsheh contended that giving information to the public is a must as it is stipulated in the Constitution and “can only help in positive development of the country and its institutions.”

The AAI poll studies parliamentarians’ opinions and stands before and after the enactment of a law related to public freedoms.

So what happened?

1 Comment

  • “Article 10 of the law prohibits the Council from disclosing information that is discriminatory in terms of religion, sectarianism, race, colour or sex.

    Article 13a bans citizens from obtaining information that contains secrets and protected documents.

    Article 13 also prohibits citizens from obtaining:
    b: classified documents;
    c: special secrets related to national defence, state security or foreign policy;
    d: information that contains analysis, recommendations, suggestions or consultations which an official possesses, but has not decided upon. This information also includes correspondence and information exchanged among different governmental departments;
    e: information and personal files related to people’s educational, medical or employment records as well as their accounts, bank transfers or professional secrets;
    f: personal correspondence with government departments through mail, telegrams, phone or any other means;
    g: information whose disclosure would impact negotiations between the kingdom and any other state or party.”

    But the killer is that they didn’t define anything in the law, so classified documents can be anything, special secrets can also be anything, but can you please read E carefully!!

    I really do think that jordanian citizens need to have a special newspaper covering the laws that are being endorsed by the so called ” parliment” since those MPs are not real represantatives, for example this article should have came before the law was endorsed not after!!

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