Minister says freedom of information bill ready

Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology Hany Mahmoud said his ministry has prepared a freedom of information bill and plans to open it to public debate after the holy Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, which is expected to begin on Sunday.

Mahmoud said the bill does not handle how the media can obtain information because that issue is expected to fall under separate legislation to be proposed by the Journalists Syndicate.

The minister added that the new draft law responds to the needs of individuals about acquiring data and information which has long been inaccessible.

Abdel Rahman al-Sawy, who chairs the ministry committee responsible for drawing up the law, said the committee suggested the establishment of a national council to oversee the provision of information and transparently solve citizen’s complaints related data access. He said members of the proposed council would be granted immunity to ensure them protection against threats while in the job and after retirement.

In early May, Sawy led members of the People’s Assembly Human Rights Committee and experts in drafting legislation on making certain government records and information available.

An explanatory note handed out with a copy of the bill listed the principles that authors considered fundamental, including the public's right to access information. It said limits on this freedom should be the exception rather than the rule.

At the other end of the spectrum, the note also mentioned the importance of protecting privacy, national security and “higher interests.”

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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