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Increasing Transparency in Governance in the Arab World

Greater media freedom and access to information is a cornerstone to good governance and fighting corruption. There are generally accepted common core characteristics of freedom of information laws necessary for them to operate successfully: 

  • Presumption of openness to public information

  • Exceptions to be narrowly defined

  • Clear enforcement and independent appeal systems

  • Protection where matters are disclosed in the public interest

Most Arab countries do not have a regulatory framework that meets these criteria. Although Jordan established the first access to information law of its kind in the region in 2007, working journalists have been critical of its implementation.

Featuring

Richard Winfield
The International Senior Lawyers Project and
CIMA Advisory Council Member

David McCraw
The New York Times

MPAli Ashal, MP Sakar Al Wageh, Salem Bintalib
Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption (YemenPAC)

Discussion was held at IREX main offices


About the Panelists

Richard N. Winfield serves of counsel to Clifford Chance US, LLP and leads the media law reform projects of the International Senior Lawyers Program, which he co-founded in 2000. Since 2002 he has taught courses in comparative mass media law and American mass media law and Internet law at Columbia Law School and Fordham University in New York City .  Since 2006 he has served as Chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee.  For more than three decades,  Winfield served as general counsel of the Associated Press (AP) while a partner in the New York law firm of Rogers and Wells, which became Clifford Chance, LLP.  There he defended the AP and other media clients in many hundreds of press freedom cases in the United States and abroad.  Winfield’s articles on freedom of expression have appeared in the Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law, Communications Lawyer and other legal publications.

David McCraw is vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company, where he is responsible for litigation and for providing legal counsel to the newsrooms of the Times, The Boston Globe, The International Herald Tribune, and the company’s other 15 newspapers as well as its Web sites.  McCraw serves as lead legal counsel in the Times’s freedom-of-information litigation and has represented the newspaper in FOI lawsuits dealing with the U.S. government’s secret program to tap phone calls without warrants, the City of New York’s emergency response on September 11, and the U.S. government’s database of unsafe workplaces.  He previously served as deputy general counsel of The New York Daily News and a litigation associate at Clifford Chance and Rogers & Wells.  He has lectured on U.S. press law in Jordan, Yemen, Peru, and several Eastern European nations.

Ali Ashal  is a member of parliament from the Islah Party..  He is head of public relations and advocacy for the Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption and a member of the Oil and Development Committee.  He has served in parliament since 1999. Ashal submitted the access to information bill to parliament.

Sakhar Al Wageh
Sakhar Al Wageh is an independent member of parliament and head of the Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption.  He graduated from Sanaa University with a degree in law and Sharia.  He has been an MP since 1993.  He is a member of the Oil and Development Committee and has major roles in countering corruption.

Salem Bintalib
Salem Bintalib is a former member of parliament from theIslah Party and is now a counselor to the president of the parliament.  He is a counselor to the Islah Party and head of research and study.  He has conducted research on laws, agreements and loans for Yemen and is a central figure in the effort to pass an access to information law.  He is also the executive manager of the Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption (YemenPAC).