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IV. Governance issues

Open government

Jordan currently does not have an access to information law. In his Speech from the Throne in November 2006, King Abdullah affirmed the importance and necessity of finalizing laws sent to the legislature, "especially those regulating political parties, municipalities, media and freedom of information."1 In April 2007, the Lower House of Parliament endorsed a draft Access to Information law.2 If approved by the Senate, the bill will establish an information council consisting of a board of six directors and a president experienced in areas relating to information and legal matters. The draft bill was first introduced in 2005 and is the only one of its kind in the Arab region.3

The bill requires officials to provide information within 30 days of a request. The bill provides exemptions for information relating to national security, public health and personal freedoms. Citizens have a right to procedural appeals at the Court of Cassation. Article 7 of the bill states, "Every Jordanian has the right to receive information he requests in accordance with the law, and if he/she has a legitimate interest in it."

A report released by the Amman-based Arab Archives Institute (AAI) said journalists identified the lack of access to information as their biggest challenge in carrying out their work. According to an AAI survey, officials regularly decline to answer questions on important issues.4 However, some of the articles in the law have come under fire from Members of Parliament and press freedom groups, who describe them as far too restrictive. Article 13 of the bill states that officials must not disclose information about discrimination between males and females, race or religions, secrets or documents protected under another law, classified information, national security issues or criminal matters, among others. This provision received criticism for being prohibitive to gender research.5 In addition, the law does not contain any penalties on public officials who wrongly withhold information. The law also requires that the requester "has a legitimate interest or a legitimate reason" in obtaining the information.6

International obligations

In 2000, Jordan signed several international agreements that will likely assist in propagating international standards for privacy protection into domestic law, including its acceptance to the World Trade Organization, a trade partnership agreement with the European Union and a joint statement on electronic commerce with the United States. The first two agreements call for the liberalization of trade and stipulate the incorporation of measures to facilitate the development of, among other things, information privacy rights with respect to the processing of personal data, and assurances of minimal restrictions on the free flow of personal data between jurisdictions. The third agreement explicitly recognizes that both the public and the private sectors need to be involved in the protection of privacy for e-commerce to flourish, and sets the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data as an appropriate basis for policy development.7 None of these agreements have legal force, but they are potential indicators of future policy. On June 10, 2003, the EU's Association Agreement with Jordan went into effect during the Euro-Mediterranean "Barcelona Process."8