02 April 2012

Tunisia: A new constitution emphasising transperancy

Following the January 2011 uprising in Tunisia, the new dispensation is hard at work on a new constitution for the country. At the top of the agenda in drafting the legislation are freedom of information reforms.

A two day "Open Government and Access to Information" event, sponsored by the Tunisian government, the World Bank and the European Commission, was held on 28 and 29 March this year. The aims of the meeting were to discuss plans to strengthen Tunisia's constitution by strengthening its freedom of information component, prior to it being adopted later in May.

The move by the government is seen by many as a step in the right direction, as access to information principles promote the integrity of any government, and are especially imperative in transitional governments.

According to an Article 19 report "the new constitution should protect freedom of information and access to information held by the state, as well as access to information held by private bodies and persons necessary to enforce a right".

Enacting constitutional protections for the right to information would build on the freedom of information legislation which currently exists in the country, affording the right a higher status and potentially compelling the government to adopt a more comprehensive law than that which currently exists.

Despite the meeting civil society in Tunisia are crying foul. They are arguing that there has not been enough consultation on the ground. Wafa Ben Hassine an activist in the country has expressed disappointment in the Ministry of Administrative Reform's lack of coordination with civil society, whom he says, were crucial in bringing about the needed change by removing President Ben Ali.