RIGHT TO KNOW - FREE ACCESS TO INFORMATION

RIGHT TO KNOW - FREE ACCESS TO INFORMATION

Open Myanmar Initiative initiated through analysis of existing Right to Know legislation in various countries, including the legislation, which is currently in progress. This is highly needed to have a solid basis for further discussions and legislative preparatory works on Right to Know.

In this context, Indian provisions for Right to Know legislation were identified as the most appropriate example to follow, while preparing the legislative proposals on Right to Know in Myanmar. Right to Know legislation was promoted in several years from the grassroots level to the level of Indian states and later on to the federal level. Also, in Indian constitution there is no explicit provision on Right to Know, which is also the case of Myanmar 2008 constitution, which is very restrictive. We are currently seeking the contacts with Ms. Aruna Roy, who is the key promoter of Right to Know in India, in order to have possibility to get her advice.

An extensive background paper on Right to Know and legislative possibilities in the Myanmar conditions was prepared and those materials are currently consulted with prominent Myanmar lawyers. We initiated public discussion on Right to Know using various Public Relations activities based on carefully calibrated Right to Know Communication Strategy. Our aim is to prepare the Right to Know legislation, which would be submitted to the Parliament and gain support of MPs from different political parties.

In 2014, Myanmar President U Thein Sein and senior leadership took an obligation to accede to Open Government Partnership by 2016. In this context, the Right to Know legislation is one of the necessary conditions for such a step, which considerably increases the chances to pass it in the Myanmar Parliament after the general elections in November 2015.

Within the period covered by this report, OMI also initiated two public activities in the area of Right to Know – press conference in January and workshop on freedom of information followed also by a press conference at the end February. Both activities were very successful and form and important basis for further deepening and enlarging our Right to Know activities.

       √ Press conference - Introduction to OMI program on people’s right to know

Press conference took place on 19 January 2015 at OMI Centre on Insein Road 82 in Yangon. Press conference received a very good media coverage and there were 53 journalists and representatives of civil society organizations. OMI representatives stressed that people’s right to know needs to be promoted and guaranteed through a law.

At the press conference, OMI distributed to all the participants comprehensive Background paper, Information about 9 Right to Know Principles as well as press release. A lot of Myanmar medias informed about the press conference and we consider the outcome very successful.

Chairman of OMI Advisory Board KoKo Gyi explained that people’s right to know needs to be promoted and guaranteed  through law

Chairman of OMI Advisory Board KoKo Gyi explained that people’s right to know needs to be promoted and guaranteed through law

OMI Executive Director Aye Kyaw explained the future plans to promote Right to Know

The Messenger Journal at the press conference

5 Plus TV Channel at the press conference

OMI Public Relations Director Nyan Nyan Htoon with Eleven Media journalist

OMI Director of Research Department Htin Kyaw Aye debating with journalists 

 

       √ Workshop on Freedom of Information followed by a press conference

Workshop on Freedom of Information followed by the press conference took place on 28 February 2015 in conference room of Orchid Hotel in downtown Yangon. We secured a large audience and 82 participants attended the event - civil society representatives, Right to Know NGOs, lawyers, politicians and journalists. The workshop was intended to identify specific issues on Right to Know to be taken in consideration as well as necessary preparations of a legal framework.

Workshop participants widely discussed Right to Know agenda and agreed on an objective to formulate a legal framework and promoting the freedom of access to information. Within the discussion, the following was debated:

 

    • A clear legal framework is required for classifying government documents.

    • Advocacy groups, relevant parliamentary committees and organizations and citizens should get involved in the efforts of Right to Know promotion.

    • The freedom of access to information is linked to ongoing dilemmas of the country.

    • Some participants that suggested that the civil societies should draft the bill themselves; others proposed to work closely with the government bodies drafting the bill.

    • Participants questioned the quality of the laws drafted by the government and risks for Right to Know legislation.

    • Participants highlighted the need to revise the laws restricting the public right to know and the need to give emphasis on avoiding the conflict among laws.

    • The participants stressed the need to raise the public awareness on their right to know.

    • The relevant organizations should work together in separate working groups in drafting the right to know bill as well as raising the public awareness.

OMI prepared a package of materials for each participant of the Workshop. Those materials included a comprehensive background paper, Myanmar Evidence Act, Myanmar Secret Act, Myanmar Media Law, Amended Myanmar Act on electronic communication, Indian Right to Information Act, a text Freedom of Information: A Comparative Legal Survey by authors Mendel and Toby published by UNESCO in 2008 and Table of Global Comparison of Freedom of Information Law. Press release, which was widely cited by Myanmar journalists, was issued after discussion at the Workshop.

OMI Executive Director Aye Kyaw invited initiated discussion on the right to know in Myanmar

OMI Chairman of Advisory Board Ko Ko Gyi stressed that a legal framework guaranteeing the public right to know is highly needed

Roundtable discussion at the Workshop

OMI Research Department representatives and journalists

Phone Myint Aung, MP of Amyotha Hluttaw for Yangon Division

Dr Zaw Aye Maung, Rakhine National Party, Minister of Yangon Division Government

Representatives of Article 19 NGO

U Maung Maung Win, prominent lawyer, Manaing Law Academy

Robert San Aung, lawyer

Kyaw Minn Swe, secretary of Myanmar journalists council and chief editor of The Voice Weekly Journal Khine Win, Director of Sandhi Institute

Myint Kyaw, Secretary of Myanmar Journalists Network

Daw Dawee Thant Zin, Myanmar Green Network

Myint Aung, FPPS secretary

Daw Mi Mi , 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Women sector

Daw Khunja, Kachin Women Network

Nwe Zin Win, Pyigyikhin NGO

Daw Shwe Shwe Sein Latt – NGO Pandhieain

 Nyi Nyi Aung, Director of Local Resource Centre NGO