With support from the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), the National Network for the Right of Access to Information is expanding its advocacy campaign for greater freedom of information in Lebanon. In January, the network hosted a forum in Tripoli for lawyers, judges, academics, and activists to discuss draft legislation on freedom of information and whistleblower protection. Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, an ABA ROLI partner organization focused on promoting democracy and civic participation, helped to organize the event.
ABA ROLI has been assisting the network, a coalition of government and non-governmental organizations, with its efforts to increase freedom of information in Lebanon since early 2009. The advocacy campaign seeks to gain support for and consensus on draft legislation on freedom of information, which the network submitted to the Lebanese Parliament in April 2009. Related legislation on whistleblower protection will be submitted in early 2010.
The Safadi Cultural Center hosted the Tripoli forum, during which participants discussed the impact of limited information on the public’s trust of government institutions and how freedom of information and whistleblower protection laws can enhance transparency. Antoine Constantine, an advisor to the minister of economy and trade and a member of the Safadi Foundation, gave opening remarks highlighting the damage that corruption causes to national economies, citing a World Bank study claiming that government anti-corruption efforts lead to economic growth.
During the forum, a panel composed of the network’s legal working group explained the draft legislation and its contributions to greater transparency in Lebanon. They also discussed a proposal to establish a national anti-corruption commission. Participants were enthusiastic about the network’s initiatives, particularly the anti-corruption commission, which they said would be most effective as an independent entity protected from political influence. Only then would the organization have the freedom to investigate corruption in the political system.
Throughout 2010, the network plans to expand its advocacy campaign to build public and political support for freedom of information and whistleblower protection legislation.
To learn more about our work in Lebanon, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.