Jakarta's info law forbids sharing of maps

Jakarta's info law forbids sharing of maps
Indonesia's Enviroment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya looks on before the start of the 15th sub-regional ministerial steering committee (MSC).

KUALA LUMPUR - Indonesia's reluctance to publicly share maps that could help pinpoint the culprits behind haze-causing forest fires can be partially traced to its Freedom of Information Law.

Clauses in the law specify that data which could reveal the country's wealth of natural resources, such as forests, cannot be made public.

Exemptions can be made, but there is a process that needs to be followed, the Communication and Information Ministry's chief spokesman, Mr Gatot Dewa Broto, told The Straits Times.

The issue of whether concession maps can be made public surfaced when environment ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand met in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday to discuss tackling cross-border haze.

They agreed that these maps would be shared between governments on a "case-by-case basis", subject to Asean leaders' approval at a summit meeting in October.

"Our regulations regarding transparency and publicly available information bar us from releasing such information," Indonesian Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said.

The 2008 law actually mandates that agencies make a range of official data publicly available, with several exceptions, including where national security and diplomatic ties need to be protected.

But it also says that these are not permanent, and the government can issue a regulation for an exemption. It does not say how wide the exemption can be.

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