Do people need to know the truth (a half or a quarter of the truth) about the persons and the structures that govern?
The life in Russia today is very much like in the West: we also celebrate Christmas, even two times; a free access to information is a rule in the West, but it is still an exception from the rule here in Russia. But it is just for the time being. The Russian government decided to take over the experience of the developed countries, the USA first of all, where the presidential press-secretary, aides, deputy secretaries and so on, report great information flows, which are further spread by the mass media. There is almost no practice of this kind in Russia yet. At its last session of the year, the Russian government will consider a draft decree on a wider access to the information concerning activity of the Cabinet and the ministries, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on Thursday. The prime minister says that the problem of a wider transparency of the Cabinet’s activity was considered a year ago already at a meeting with representatives of the civil society.
“Today the government will consider a document determining the format of access to the information concerning activity of the government and of the ministries in 65 spheres,” Mikhail Kasyanov says. The prime minister said that a corresponding legislation would be developed soon as well. The access of the Russian population to information about activity of the government, the prime minister says, will make for transparency of the Cabinet’s activity and will certainly increase the people’s confidence in the government. Besides, as the prime minister emphasizes, these measures introduced by the Cabinet will liquidate the abuse of power among the federal authorities. Mikhail Kasyanov says: “Step by step, we must realize the people’s constitutional right for information about the government’s activity.”
There are several gradations of closed information in Russia. First, this is information officially stated as the state or military secret. Any society has norms of this kind; any reasonable man never doubts the necessity of such norms. In this case, only the limit of the norms’ spreading can be argued. The second gradation includes all kinds of commercial classified information. Private business subjects have more voluntarism, more information which cannot be classified for the sake of the society’s interests. At that, the second category isn’t less transparent that the first one. The third gradation of closed information contains actually closed information which is made classified illegally, with efforts of the bureaucracy, the corporate, as well as the governmental ones. The arbitrary rule is the strongest here. Sometimes it is strengthened with the lack of specific search information services and competent professionals, and even with the lack of information that is to be disclosed.
Besides, there is a category of private information, which is classified by each man individually. That is why the same people who stand up for declassification of everything will hardly agree to declassify private information concerning themselves, activity of their organizations, etc. (the categories were described by editor-in-chief of the Independent Publishing Group, Vitaly Tretyakov).
What is the criterion that determines which information is closed and which is not? It is still a great problem to determine what information can be openly published and what is better to be classified. The situation in the West is currently far from being a paradise, however, there is no information starvation yet.
In the western countries, there is a milieu through which closed information may get out, become public and influence the authority. The only difference is that the democratic system allows to conceal this information within some period of time, but non-democratic systems hide this information once and for all. In 1966, American journalist Jack Anderson could publish his research concerning illegal actions of the Pentagon in Vietnam, nothing of this kind was possible in the USSR with respect to the events in Afghanistan. This milieu hasn’t been yet created in Russia, but we must strive for its creation. The authorities are making just the first steps in this direction. Will it continue this line?
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://politics.pravda.ru/politics/2002/1/1/5/4932_informacia.html
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