By Jeff Baron
UPDATE: We initially reported on this initiative in May 2012, when Parliament passed the law.
Yemen’s President has approved one of the Middle East’s most liberal open-government laws.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi signed the law July 1. The parliament had approved it April 24 after three years of work by civil society activists. The law was a high priority for Counterpart International’s Responsive Governance Project (RGP), which assisted in crafting the measure and assisting civil society organizations to advocate on behalf of the legislation.
Months of civil unrest and demonstrations led to the previous president’s resignation. Hadi took office in February and pledged to follow a two-year transition to a more democratic and less corrupt system of government.
The new law says that the government must comply with citizens’ requests for information that it has unless the information falls into certain categories. Among them: the secrets of private businesses; copyrighted material; personal information of private citizens; diplomatic or defense secrets; and details that could jeopardize criminal investigations.
The law applies not only to the executive branch of Yemen’s central government, but to the legislative and judicial branches as well, at all levels, and to institutions, such as universities, that receive government funding.
If a request for information is rejected, the applicant can appeal the decision in court.