Agencies refusing to provide info: journalists
KUWAIT CITY, Oct 21: Although the Right to Information law was issued to promote the principle of transparency and integrity in economic and administrative dealings in order to ensure rational management and optimal use of state funds, resources and properties, and in embodiment of the first goal of the Kuwait Anti-Corruption Authority, the actual practice of the law entirely excludes the fourth estate from this entitlement, reports Al-Qabas daily. Several government agencies are refusing to provide journalists with information on the grounds that they are not covered by the Right of Information law and its executive regulations.
This prevents the journalists from exercising their legitimate role in exposing financial and administrative corruption at various levels, and reflecting international and local interest in fighting corruption. One of the government agencies said in its response to a press request submitted in this regard, “In accordance with the provisions of the articles of Law No. 12/2020 regarding the right to access information and its executive regulations, it is clear that the interest is absent with regard to the required information contained in the request form. You are an editor in a newspaper, and it does concern any of your rights.” The agency explained that the law defines the request as every request submitted by a person to the entity to view or obtain information and administrative decisions that affect his rights and copies of documents associated with them, according to the form prepared for this purpose. A person is “every natural or legal person who has an interest in accessing or obtaining information and decisions”.
According to article 10 of Chapter Four on “Request to obtain information from the law”, if the request contains more than one information, and if some of it falls within the scope of the protection of privacy specified in this law, the entity must divide the request whenever possible, otherwise it will be rejected. Article 12 of Chapter Five related to “Protection of Information” stipulates that the entity is prohibited from disclosing information in the following cases:
1 – If confidentiality is established by virtue of the constitution, a law, or a decision of the Cabinet, based on a proposal by the concerned minister, considering the papers included in it are confidential and for the period specified by the Cabinet,
2 – If the information contains a commercial secret and its publication would weaken the commercial and financial interest of the stakeholders,
3- If disclosing the information would cause a serious and grave danger that would affect the state’s economy or prejudice public confidence in the currency or public health or the environment.
This raises more questions about who is responsible for depriving the fourth authority of its natural right to access information, especially when enacting the law on which great hopes were placed in the possibility of opening corruption files that were unavailable for access before the issuance of the law.
In addition, follow-up sources asked, “How is the government’s approach and the parliamentary and popular desire to fight corruption upright, when the print, audio and visual media are deprived of one of the tools that enhance their role in combating corruption in all its forms, given that they represent the fourth authority in society after the three executive, legislative and judicial authorities?”