Access to information
Indonesia’s 2008 Freedom of Information Act, implemented in 2010, mandates how national and local governments must ensure citizens’ rights to access public information. District governments are required to respond to information requests, and establish procedures for handling them. Provinces are required to establish Information Commissions, and establish procedures for handling grievances. Environmental activists see the Act as an important way for civil society to gather information about land use policies, including permits to exploit forests and clear land areas.
As many local governments are at the early stages of implementation, and with public awareness low, SETAPAK partners are providing technical assistance to governments, and building civil society capacity by advising the public on how to use the Act to obtain land use and forestry information and press for accountability. Improved access to information helps strengthen civil society’s monitoring of policies and practices in the field, enables greater public participation in policy debate, and increases reporting of infractions.
Across the areas where SETAPAK partners are active, training has been provided to government officials, and civil society groups have been supporting the development of district level regulations and new processes for information management. They have also been promoting the benefits of access to public information and training community representatives on how to submit information requests and pursue grievances to the courts if necessary. Partners are now pursuing information grievances in all SETAPAK districts.
In some cases the aim has been to obtain specific information, and in other cases it has been to test access by applying for a number of documents. The main focal points have been Environmental Impact Assessment (AMDAL) studies, logging, mining and plantation concession details, and local government work plans. There have been many successes. In October 2014, for example, after over a year’s work, SETAPAK partner SAMPAN together with Link-AR Borneo won a landmark victory in West Kalimantan when the district administrative court ruled that the Mining and Energy Agency in Ketapang, had no obligation or right to keep secret the details of work plans, financial agreements and environmental impact assessments of six mining companies operating in the region.
Clarity in Aceh
In 2014, SETAPAK partner MaTA pursued a series of grievances against government agencies in Aceh which had failed to provide information about budget allocations and forest permit processing. Following mediation by the Information Commission, MaTA was successful in each case. Also in 2014, SETAPAK partner GeRAK pursued grievances in South Aceh and West Aceh, when a request for mining, revenue and shareholding information was rejected. Following three mediations in South Aceh and two in West Aceh, the Information Commission decided in GeRAK’s favour in both cases, and the information was very largely released. These cases have implications beyond immediate access to information. To avoid further information grievances, Aceh’s government has recently clarified the procedures required for government agencies to provide public information.