S’gor Freedom of Info Bill should be guided by principle of maximum disclosure – CIJ

By Bernama

SHAH ALAM: The proposed Selangor Freedom of Information (FOI) Enactment 2010 Bill should be guided by the principle of maximum disclosure, which is in line with international law, the Centre of Independent Journalism (CIJ) said on Thursday, Aug 12.

Its director V Gayathry said the enactment should encapsulate the concept of freedom and provide the basic right to information access.

“The principle of maximum disclosure establishes a presumption that all information held by public bodies should be subject to maximum disclosure (without condition).

“As such, public bodies have an obligation to disclose information and every member of the public has a corresponding right to receive information,” she said at a dialogue session held with the FOI Committee and four other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at the State Secretariat building, here on Thursday, Aug 12.

The Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government created history when it tabled its FOI Bill to strengthen the people’s right to access to information during the last state assembly sitting.

State executive councillor in charge of Tourism, Consumerism and Environment, Elizabeth Wong, was reported to have said that the state tabled the Bill to enhance disclosure of information in the public interest, to provide every individual access to information required from the local councils and state departments.

The Bill provides for one information officer for each state government department to guide the public in accessing the requested documents. The officer has to respond within 30 days, or seven days in the case of life-threatening situations.

Gayathry said the FOI Bill should also offer protection to whistleblowers to ensure they would not be penalised for releasing information on wrongdoings.

Meanwhile, Selangor FOI committee chairman Saari Sungib said the discussion with the NGOs today showed the Bill needed to be further improved.

“Our aim for the discussion is to encourage constructive feedback, exchange ideas and provide suggestions to further strengthen the Bill to ensure the public would benefit from access to the information needed.”

He said the enactment, which was expected to come into effect by June next year, would enable residents to get information without restriction, on projects coming up in their area. — Bernama