In an effort to increase transparency and promote Freedom of Information (FOI) in the Islamic Republic, the Iranian government has officially launched a portal that provides people with free access to the information of state institutions.
The portal for dissemination of, and free access to information was inaugurated on July 8 after eight months of research and comparative work on the back of efforts by the Iranian Information Technology Organization (ITO).
The ceremony was attended by Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi as well as Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Reza Salehi Amiri, according to a Farsi report by ISNA.
The system became operational after the law on Freedom of Information (FOI) was put into practice. The law on dissemination of, and free access to information was announced in 2009, and its executive directives were drawn up five years later in 2014.
After eight months of research, the portal became operational on a trial basis last month, and was officially unveiled on July 8, 2017.
Organizations and institutions are obliged to provide the information that people need in maximum 10 days via the system.
“Following the launch of a portal for dissemination of, and free access to information, it’s been 45 days now that people have been able to receive the information they need,” said ICT Minister Vaezi in the unveiling ceremony.
“Different institutions and organizations also must feed their information into this system,” he added.
He said the trial period has helped the ministry detect the system’s weak points and shortcomings.
“Free access to information is a national issue. If a government wants to remain democratic, it should be accountable and have a tool which can establish a bridge between officials and people. This system is one of those instruments.”
The minister said access to information will contribute to transparency and elimination of corruption, saying these features are part of democracy.
“Free access to information is a two-way process, which means not only should institutions provide people with their information, but also people should use that information properly,” said Vaezi.
He then touched upon the limitations which exist in the way of free access to information.
“The first restriction is national interests and security as well as the peace. The second limitation is people’s privacy as well as companies’ trade documents. The third limitation is the information which is effective in decision-making,” he said.
Vaezi went on to say that free access to information is nothing new.
140 countries have laws on free access to information, and another 90 countries are seeking to draw up laws in that regard, he noted.
In the meantime, the secretary of the Commission for Publishing and Providing Free Access to Information, Hossein Entezami, said 34 out of 400 institutions to which the law applies have been connected to the system.
He said the majority of institutions and organizations already linked to the system are executive ones, but a number of judicial and legislative bodies have also joined in.