Why is FOI so important in MY?

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Source: Zunar Kartunis – http://www.zunar.my/

Did you know that as a citizen of a democratic nation, you have the Right to Know how your country is being governed?

Did you know that Freedom of Information is a human right that every person possesses by virtue of being human?

Yes, it is your human Right to Know public information.

Freedom of information as a democratic right is relevant in itself and for the fulfilment of other rights. It is important to understand that public bodies do not hold information on their own behalf, but for the benefit of, and on behalf of the public. This is the foundation of democracy.

When you democratically elect a representative, you are merely extending your duty to govern this nation to a representative. Without obtaining public information, you would lose the ability to make informed decisions regarding who you elect to represent you in matters of governance. As such, it is your elected officials’ duty to keep you informed on how he is carrying out his duties. He must remain accountable to you, whom he works for.

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Source: Zunar Kartunis – http://www.zunar.my/

Given so, laws that deny you the right of access to public information, or that turn public information into the private property of the government, such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972, do not just negate your right to freedom of information but also hampers the fulfilment of your other democratic rights.

In Malaysia, freedom of information as a legal provision is only offered in two states – Selangor and Penang. Both state governments have provided Freedom of Information Enactments (FOIE)s, allowing anyone to obtain information owned by the respective state governments. Yet, these existing FOIEs face a grand challenge by the OSA 1972, which has the capacity to obstruct the free flow of information, even in Penang and Selangor, by simply classifying information as official secrets.

This breakdown in flow of information caused by secrecy laws contributes to the imbalance in the power relationship between the citizen and the government, and affects your ability to effectively hold government institutions to account.

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Source: Zunar Kartunis – http://www.zunar.my/

Given your inability to hold the government accountable, top officials have the capacity to engage in corrupt practices and keep their corruption well-hidden. Secrecy laws that obstruct the free flow of information ultimately serves as an efficient tool for cover-ups. Thus, the lack of freedom of information provides a conducive breeding ground for grand corruption.

To save this nation, you must report corruption that you are aware of, and simultaneously, pressure the government to legally guarantee your Right to Know!

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