Tag Archives: access to information

Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill Has Free Speech Advocates and Business Community Worried

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“The proposed Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2015, in my opinion, is even worse than the one we advocated against during the Musharraf era.  The fact that the Ministry of IT&T felt the need to operate in complete secrecy over the past year clearly indicates the mindset with which this draft has been put together. P@SHA, ISPAK, legal cybercrime experts and civil society were not called in for a consultation.”
– Jehan Ara, President Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and ITES (P@SHA)

Pakistan has a long history of suppressing the freedom of speech. Democratically elected governments have left the popular video site YouTube blocked since 2012. Twitter was blocked in the same year and in 2010 a court order forced government to block every social media site in the country on the pretext of preventing the distribution of blasphemous content.

Even with this background, the current government’s “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015” has civil society, business, the information technology sector, and the media deeply worried about the future of online freedom of speech and Pakistan’s information technology industries.

The proposed bill aims to rectify the lack of legislation pertaining to cyber-crime. While the government argues that the bill had undergone a public consultative process, stakeholders are of the view that since government has not shared the final version of the bill, it may contain clauses that will infringe upon the right to online speech. Representatives of Pakistan’s information technology sector have strongly criticized previous drafts of the bill.

“Just a quick look at the clauses and sections in this Act shows that very little thought went into its drafting,” said Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA. “The definitions are weak, the language is loose and vague and leaves much to interpretation, and it criminalizes all sorts of activities that do not even fall within the gambit of this Bill.”

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Press Freedom Still on the Decline

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By Dahye Kim

On May 3, the United Nations General Assembly honors the fundamental principles of press freedom with World Press Freedom Day. On this day Freedom House also released Freedom of the Press 2015, the latest edition of its annual report published since 1980 to evaluate press freedom around the world.

Unfortunately, the dominant global trend in 2014 was negative. Global average score of press freedom declined to the lowest point in more than 10 years, with the largest one-year drop in a decade. There were significant declines in press freedom in 18 countries (Greece, Bahrain, Mali, Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, etc.), while just eight had significant gains (Tunisia, Myanmar, Libya, etc.)

Of 199 countries and territories, 32 percent were rated “Free”, 36 percent were rated “Partly Free”, and 32 percent were rated “Not Free.” This marks a shift toward the Partly Free category compared with the previous year.

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Empowering Everyday Folks through Economic Journalism

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It is when citizens are well-informed, equipped with facts, and capable of conducting independent analysis that they can better engage in the policymaking process. Access to information at every level is the backbone of an active citizenry that can come together to keep government honest, responsible, and accountable. In Kyrgyzstan, however, most journalists lack the analytical skills to report well on crucial economic issues, and citizens lack the necessary understanding of core social and economic realities (and values) that are needed to keep a democracy in place 365 days a year. This lack of information not only undermines the population’s ability to support basic market-based democratic reform, but detracts from their ability to engage in the development of their country – of their village, of the region, of the nation at large. It is with this in mind that CIPE partner the Development Policy Institute (DPI) began their work several years ago to improve mass media’s capacity to inform the public on economic concepts during Kyrgyzstan’s fragile period of transition to market-based democracy with protected property rights and rule of law.

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Implementation Gaps and Public Information in Argentina

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In every country, sound laws are a key foundation of democratic governance and economic development. Crafting such laws, however, is only part of the path to success. The other half is making sure that the laws are properly implemented – which is often more challenging.

When laws and regulations are not properly adopted, such discrepancy creates an implementation gap – the difference between laws on the books and how they function in practice. This gap can have negative consequences for democratic governance and the economic prospects of countries and communities. Failing to fully implement laws undermines the credibility of government officials, fuels corruption, and presents serious challenges for business, which in turn hampers economic growth.

To help better understand why implementation gaps happen and how they can be addressed, CIPE and Global Integrity published Improving Public Governance: Closing the Implementation Gap Between Law and Practice. This guidebook offers starting points for identifying implementation gaps in various laws and regulations, asking why these laws and regulations are not fully adopted or practiced.

Based on the suggestions from the guidebook, the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC) researched whether Argentina’s access to information law is implemented by public entities, particularly by state-owned enterprise. The latest Economic Reform Feature Service article summarizes CIPPEC’s key findings from the research and policy reform suggestions needed to overcome the implementation gap.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Economic Journalism Driving Democratic Debate

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When Maxim Tsoi, a journalist for the Kyrgyzstan newspaper Vecherny Bishkek, made the four-hour drive last spring to the town of Talas on the border with Kazakhstan, he was expecting to gather some local color to illustrate provincial life for readers in the capital city. What Tsoi came away with was a little different. After interviewing local bean farmers, customs officials, and border guards, he had material for a story on the pros and cons of Kyrgyzstan joining the Eurasian Economic Union.

The issue of whether Kyrgyzstan should join the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which so far includes Kazakhstan and Belarus, is a source of frequent debate in Bishkek. Membership in the Union has significant implications for the country’s political and economic elites. In the border town, Tsoi found farmers in favor of joining the Union and getting privileged access to new markets. Local resellers of Chinese imports, however, were opposed since they would be facing new tariffs.

“Most of media outlets here in the capital only write about what happens in the capital. So, the material from these trips is quite interesting to everyone, to the journalists and to the readers,” said Tsoi in an interview from Bishkek.

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World Press Freedom on the Decline

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Saturday, May 3 was World Press Freedom Day, when we celebrate the vital contributions of free media around the world. Unfortunately, journalists, independent media outlets, and the legal and constitutional freedoms they depend on to do their jobs are all under attack in many parts of the world.

Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of democracy — without a free media to provide citizens with the information they need to hold elected leaders accountable, the institutions of democracy simply cannot function.

The latest edition of Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press index, released on Friday, shows that the proportion of the global population living in countries with a free press has declined to its lowest level in over a decade — just 14 percent. The growth of new online and social media outlets in particular has triggered an authoritarian backlash as countries from Russia to Turkey to Venezuela to Thailand crack down on these new forms of communication.

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Open Government and Public Enterprises in Argentina

Argentina's state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.

Argentina’s state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, was privatized in 1993 but partially re-nationalized in 2012.

Access to information is an integral part of an open democracy. The UNDP defines access to information as encompassing the core principles of democratic governance: participation, transparency, and accountability. And the promotion and protection of both access to information itself and flows of information that exists between constituents, government, civil society organizations and the private sector are of equal importance. Yet, in many countries around the world, transparency or access to information laws are not properly enforced.

Argentina is a good example of this. The Access to Information Decree 1172/03, obliges “the bodies, entities, enterprise, companies, dependencies and all other entity that work under the jurisdiction of the National Executive Branch” to provide public information. The Decree defines private organizations as those either receiving subsidies or contributions from the national government. This definition is particularly important because the percentage of the national budget devoted to public enterprises in Argentina has been increasing — in 2006 it was 2 percent and it rose up to 8 percent by 2012. But are these state-owned enterprises abiding by Decree 1172/03?

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