August 2023

Advocating for the Right to Information

A key feature in any democracy is the right to information. In Sri Lanka, the right to information is ensured through Article 14(1)(A) of the Constitution to all the citizens. It is subject to certain limitations prescribed in the legislation such as unwanted intrusion into the privacy and national security.

During the training programmes on protecting civic space under NPC’s Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) project, participants in Batticaloa revealed a gap in their right to information. “When we requested information from government officers in writing, we receive phone calls from the officers requesting us to come in person to get the information orally.”

Despite the constitutional guarantee of the right to information marginalised communities, particularly ethnic minorities in the North and East, faced numerous challenges when exercising this right. The project team observed that the number of people who accessed the right to information in Batticaloa was far lower than in Polonnaruwa. One reason was the lack of awareness among public and the government authorities. Government authorities were often reluctant to abide by the procedures and timelines prescribed in the legislation in providing the information to citizens. In some cases applicants who requested information from government organizations faced threats from different authorities such as the police, intelligence officers and CID.

The right to information has the potential to fight and eliminate corruption and discrimination that endangers any democracy. If implemented properly, the right to information can bridge the equality gaps in Sri Lanka.