Guarantees of Access to Information: Uzbekistan’s ExperienceInternational conference entitled “Transparency in the activities of government and management bodies as an important guarantee in securing the constitutional right of citizens for information: the practice of Uzbekistan” has taken place in Samarkand.
The conference was organized by the Public Fund for the Support and Development of Independent Print Media and Information Agencies of Uzbekistan in cooperation with corresponding ministries and other government agencies, UNESCO Office in the country, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan. The event was attended by members of the Senate and Legislative Chamber of Uzbekistan’s Oliy Majlis, heads of information services of government bodies, specialists of civil society institutions, representatives of offices of international organizations in the country, experts from Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Estonia, Greece, Finland, as well as mass media.
Deputy Chairwoman of Uzbekistan’s Senate Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Sport Gavhar Alimova, director of the Public Fund for the Support and Development of Independent Print Media and Information Agencies of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Abdullaev, head of the UNESCO Office in the country Krista Pikkat and others noted that steadfast reforms have been underway in Uzbekistan under the leadership of President Islam Karimov to build a democratic state with a rule of law and a free civil society. In this process, particular attention is paid to ensuring the constitutional rights of citizens to information, freedom of information and expression.
Proceeding from the fundamental tenets put forward by the head of state in the Concept of the Intensification of Democratic Reforms and Formation of Civil Society in the Country, among the laws adopted in 2014 was the one “On transparency in the activities of government and management bodies” that proved to be an important step towards further democratization of governance in the country and transparency of public authorities. The law defines the procedure of informing the general public about the activities of government bodies, legal provisions guaranteeing a broad awareness of the population about decisions taken by authorities, especially concerning the rights and freedoms as well as legitimate interests of citizens.
The conference participants were provided with information on the course of drafting the law and the legal experiment on its approbation in Bukhara and Samarkand regions. The forum served to exchange views on the efforts being undertaken to implement the law, inform the public about the activities of government agencies, and cement the rights of citizens in the sphere of information.
The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan stipulates for guarantees of freedom of expression and information. Laws “On the protection of professional activity of journalists”, “On guarantees and freedom of access to information”, “On mass media”, “On principles and guarantees of freedom of information”, “On provision with information technologies”. As a result, the number of media outlets over the years of independence has increased 3.6 times and now stands at more than 1,400. About 60 percent of print publications, 67 TV and radio channels, and 95 percent of online news entities are non-state media. This indicates that today the mass media are engaged in the process to further enhance the political and social activity of the population, formation of public opinion, democratic renewal and modernization of the nation.
Participants of the international conference noted that measures taken in Uzbekistan toward democratization of the information sphere, to support and advance independent mass media in order to ensure the transparency of activities of government bodies have been yielding remarkable results.
“Transparency in the activity of state bodies is manifest in the free access to and dissemination of information,” said Professor David Goldberg of the University of London (UK). “It is difficult to imagine without the freedom of the media, freedom of expression and information, which is an indicator of the democratic state. In this regard, Uzbekistan has also been undertaking significant efforts on this front. The adoption of laws and other legal acts meeting international norms serves an important factor in the consistent development of the media sphere in this country. The law on transparency in the activity of civil service also is a result of ongoing democratic reforms in Uzbekistan. During the conference, we received detailed information on the implementation of this law and exchanged expertise with lawyers and members of parliament, journalists, as well as international experts.”
“The reports at the current conference and conversations with chiefs of information services and other specialists have helped us broaden our understanding of the role and importance played by mass media in securing the openness in the activities of government bodies in Uzbekistan,” Peter Slama, correspondent of Germany-based newspaper Behoerden Spiegel. “In this respect, noteworthy is that every organization in this country, by making effective use of the internet, presents information on its activities through its website. There are many laws in Germany in the information sphere, as well, yet I believe there are many things worth learning from the practice of Uzbekistan.”
Conference participants presented their reports on topics in the agenda and exchanged views and expertise in the field.
Ghalib Hasanov, UzA