Wednesday, September 28, 2016

India ranks 4th in RTI rating, far above most western countries; Pak a poor 84th: Global Access to Info rating

By Our Representative
India ranks No 4 in a new rating of Right to Information (RTI), says a comparative assessment of national legal frameworks for RTI, “developed and applied” by Canada-based Centre for Law and Democracy and the Access Info Europe. The rating has been worked out to mark the International Right to Know Day, celebrated on September 28 across the globe.
Rating 112 countries, Mexico tops the international rating, followed by two small European countries, Serbia and Slovenia. Sri Lanka, the only other South Asian country making it to the first 10 positions, ranks No 9. Other countries in the top ten positions are – Croatia, Liberia, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia.
Taking a special note of the development, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative's (CHRI's), which has been campaigning for RTI in Commonwealth member countries, says, while three Commonwealth member states, India, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka are amongst the top-10 positions, a few others – Mozambique, Pakistan and Guyana – figure at the bottom of the list at 98, 89 and 84, respectively.
CHRI's Venkatesh Nayak, who is a top RTI activist, is among the panel of experts who have worked out that rating, which is based on 61 indicators falling under seven different categories -- Right of Access, Scope, Requesting Procedures, Exceptions and Refusals, Appeals, Sanctions and Protections, and Promotional Measures.
India scores 128 on a scale of 150, as against Germany's 54, Pakistan's 66, China's 70, USA's and Australia's score of 83, Canada's 90, Russia's 98, and Brazil's 108. 
India's score under seven categories
Canada and Australia, which were the first amongst Commonwealth member states to implement information access laws, figure at 48 and 40, respectively, on this list, while the UK, which began implementation of its Freedom of Information Act more than a decade ago, figures at 33.
CHRI regrets, however, in some of the Commonwealth countries, the “Draft Bills on access to information are languishing across the Commonwealth – Botswana, Ghana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, the Fiji Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Barbados and St Kitts and Nevis.”
It says, “In some of these countries governments have not acceded to civil society demand for enacting strong information access laws for more than a decade”, adding, “Till date, 22 of the 53 member states have enacted national level laws.”
September 28 has been recognized by UNESCO as the title International Day for Universal Access to Information. One of the indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is to assess whether States have adopted and implemented RTI laws.
“The strongest law among the new countries on the RTI rating is that of Sri Lanka”, says Michael Karanicolas, Senior Legal Officer, Centre for Law and Democracy, adding, The passage of this law means that every country in South Asia apart from Bhutan now has an RTI law. The region is generally a strong performer, with every country scoring over 100 points, except Pakistan, which continues to languish near the bottom of the Rating. ”
“Tunisia’s progression into the top tier of global RTI laws is all the more significant given that the Arab world is among the world’s weakest on this important human rights indicator, with only four of the 22 member states of the Arab League – namely Jordan, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen – having RTI laws on the books”, notes Karanicolas,
“Just behind Tunisia is Kenya’s Access to Information Act, adopted in late August 2016, which ranks 14th in the world with a score of 113”, Karanicolas notes, adding, “This is the latest in a strong trend among African countries to adopt RTI laws, which is now starting to redress the longstanding position of the continent as lagging behind other regions of the world on this issue.”
“It also results in seven African countries being among the top twenty, making it the region of the world with the most countries having this status. The Kenyan law is notable for its very broad coverage of private sector actors, which pushes the already expansive approach on this issue pioneered in Africa to new limits”, Karanicolas points out.

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