On December 30, 2018, H.E Sarwar Danish, Second Vice President, introduced the newly appointed Access to Information Commissioners in the presence of government officials and spokespersons, civil society and media as well as the international community including the UN and the EU at the Government Media & Information Center. H.E Danish stated that access to information is central to a democratic society. “It creates the enabling environment for media and civil society to operate and it is these two organizations which provide oversight over government on behalf of the public.” He further stated that societies which have gone through autocratic regimes like in Afghanistan understand the central importance of access to information and freedom of speech.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, chairperson of the Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI), who formally handed over responsibility to the five newly appointed commissioners, stated that during the last three years the Commission had organized several awareness campaigns, had held dozens of workshops, facilitated the creation of over 50 Public Information Offices in government agencies in Kabul, had drafted a five-year strategy and had amended the Access to Information Law bringing it up to global standards. He continued, “If access to information is weak in a government agency, this is an indicator that its leadership is not willing to be accountable to the public and is not serious in the fight against corruption. The Afghan government, civil society, and the international community should consider access to information as one important indicator in assessing the credibility of the leadership of an institution.”
The Acting Minister of Information & Culture, Ms. Hasina Safi, said: “We are committed to supporting access to information at Central and Provincial level through our offices”. M/s Safi led the selection committee which shortlisted 15 candidates from which the President appointed the five who will lead the Access to Information Commission. The Oversight Commission on Access to Information (OCAI) which was established under the 2014 law had 13 ad-hoc Commissioners. The new Access to Information Commission (AIC) which is established under the 2018 Access to Information Law has 5 permanent commissioners, appointed for up to 5 years. The 5 new Commissioners are Ms. Najiba Maram, Mr. Ainuddin Bahadury, Mr. Hamdullah Arbab, Ms. Zahra Musavi, and Mrs. Fazul Bari Baryali. Ms. Najiba Maram, speaking on behalf of the new Commissioners maintained that “we will protect access to information and promote it, based on the new Access to Information Law”.
H.E Sarwar Danish thanked the former Commissioners for their dedication and hard work during the last three years and he pledged that the National Unity Government would provide all possible support to the new Commissioners and the Commission.
The introduction ceremony for the ICAN was held recently by Integrity Watch in cooperation with the Government, the Media & Information Center and the Secretariat of Oversight Commission on Access to Information. Afghanistan’s recently amended Access to Information Law is considered to be the best law in the world (rti-rating.org). The new Commission has been established under this Law and it will ensure independent oversight of the implementation of the new Access to Information law.