How can the citizens of Kazakhstan obtain information? What types of information should be provided by the state agencies? How does the Law “On Access to information” operate in Kazakhstan? On these issues, "Heuristics" program meets Olga Didenko, the lawyer of Internews-Kazakhstan.
There is quite a simple mechanism at the heart of "access to information" laws. Firstly, such a law should be written in plain language, so that it is understandable to everyone. Then, there are two mechanisms of how a person can get the information: to oblige public authorities and other bodies to disseminate information on its own initiative and the second mechanism - a person sends a request and the public body provides information on the request.
Public authorities are among the number of owners of the information, but in addition to them, more information should be provided by business organizations, budgetary funds, as well as organizations that have publicly important information. For example: environmental information, fire safety information, etc.
Ensuring the right of access to information in the country is the duty of every State. This is the first reason why such a law was necessary in Kazakhstan. It was necessary to establish special mechanisms and special institutions to ensure that every citizen and any person could get the information he needs which is under possession of information holders.
The second reason - it is fighting corruption. It is believed that the possibility of obtaining information prevents corruption offenses, and public authorities in their activities should be transparent and open. Information on their activities should be available to anyone.
The third reason - it is the transparency of budgets. We are all taxpayers, we all pay taxes, and we always wonder where our money is directed and how it is spent.
The fourth reason is the realization of Kazakhstan’s plan to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It is the leading organization of industrialized countries, and Kazakhstan, of course, would like to join it. One of the declared principles of this organization is the government accountability principle, and this principle is also realized through access to information.
Now there is a certain inertia on the part of the public authorities, who are aware of the adoption of this law, but are not yet fully ready to implement its main provisions. If you look at the sites of the public authorities, they have changed a little, and not all of them comply with the requirements specified in the law. Then, of course, the second factor – subordinate acts which are necessary for implementation of this law. For example, there must be the Access to Information Commission. This is not established yet.
Active efforts to implement this law are needed on the part of civil society and journalists, in order to make this law work. They need to make inquiries to state authorities to obtain any information, and they need to ask questions and to disturb the public authorities regarding the implementation of the right on access to information.
We would like the state agencies to have responsible attitude to their duties for the dissemination of information in the framework of the law. Bring their Internet resources in line with the requirements of the Law. Work with the population in accordance with the procedures specified in the law, answer to the questions of the population. And in general, that they do not ignore the law but obey its provisions.
Thus it is achieved the goal of creating a transparent, accountable government in Kazakhstan. Recommendations to civil society are the following: be active users of information, make the requests, contact the State authorities to obtain the necessary information. This must be done in order that the law on access to information could get started, and we could find some kind of legal gaps or some nuances that interfere with its proper implementation.
“Heuristics” edition: “Law on Access to information” is part of the LPRC “Improving government accountability through access to information” project implemented with the support of British Embassy Astana.