The Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI) on Monday said a number of government institutions are not implementing the Access to Information act.
In a new report, the OCAI said that several government institutions, such as the administrative office of the president, the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC), Lower House of Parliament and the Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) have failed to implement this Act.
OCAI chief Sayed Ekram Afzali said that by establishing the commission, government tried to mislead the people.
He said that nothing has changed on the ground and the commission is merely symbolic.
He said that government has tried to portray the establishment of the commission as beneficial.
Based on the report, many government institutions are violating the Act and try to keep information secret, critics claim.
According to the report, the Ministry of Public Works (MoPW), Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP), Ministry of Commerce (MoC), Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MoCN), Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) are accused of not cooperating in terms of releasing information.
“If government creates the commission only to mislead the public and only claims that we have access to information and talks about it in meetings, then it is not acceptable for us,” said Afzali.
He blasted the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) for not cooperating with journalists in disseminating information.
“We should remove the world ‘information’ from this institution (MoIC) and instead name it the ministry of prevention of information. This ministry has been one of the biggest problems for us. It never cooperated with us, but always tried to make problems. Even this ministry itself has not created an information facilitated organization,” added Afzali.
The MoIC has however confirmed its shortcomings and said it is reviewing the problem.
“We will share the results of our assessments once we completed our investigations and assessments,” said the deputy minister of information and culture for publications Sayed Fazel Sancharaki.
Journalists on the other hand spoke out and slammed these institutions.
“When they see that I am a journalist and want information, they start mistreating us as journalists, secondly they avoid giving us the information,” said local journalist Rabia Sadat.
“Whenever we consult an institution, they ask us to consult another institution while the first institution has the responsibility to provide us with the information. When we consult the other institution, they say that that the matter belongs to the referring institution,” said journalist Nazifa Rahmati.
However, the president’s office said all institutions are obliged to give out information except that which is classified.
“All government institutions are obliged to provide the information except classified (information). A good example is the office of the presidential spokesman which always participates in debates and responds to questions and organizes press briefings,” said deputy presidential spokesman Najibullah Azad.
The OCAI meanwhile was formed two years ago but has constantly faced budget issues.
According to Afzali, recently 12 million AFs was allocated as budget, but the commission has so far not been able to access the money.