TODAY, SEPTEMBER 28, is the International Right to Information (RTI) Day. On this day many organisations and community groups from around the world are raising awareness on the right of information and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government. But what does the Right to Information really mean? Where does Vanuatu stand on RTI? In this article we will try to answer these questions, and at the same promote RTI as a tool for transparency and accountability.
The RTI idea was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 2002 several representatives from the Freedom of Information (FOI) organisations from around the world materialized this idea at a FOI conference that took place from the 26th to the 28th September, 2002.
AUDIO:RTI Day Radio Show – Transparency International Vanuatu, RTI Unit, @ 96 Buzz FM.
The right of access to information is a necessity for individual and community development. Moreover, it is a key component for a transparent and accountable government, it makes it possible for the public to productively involve in framing social policies and national decision making processes.
However, the right to information can only be fully applied if it is legislated into Vanuatu’s national laws. Significant progress in early 2014 saw the launching of the Right to Information Policy.
The Right to Information Bill was listed to be debated in the parliament in November 2014, but it was later withdrawn for further corrections. Consequently, the right to access information is still legally limited. The right to information is a human right, it is explained in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also in article 5 of the Vanuatu national constitution.
Once the RTI becomes law it will allow the public to request information from government agencies within a 30 day period. Any information can be requested by any citizen of Vanuatu, and this will be protected by law. However, there will be some exceptions like personal information and legal privileged information.
Vanuatu is advancing well in this sector, and 2016 promises an increase in RTI activities. Till then we all need to lobby and push for RTI to be tabled in Parliament, passed and gazetted.