Information Commissioner Ahmed Ahid Rasheed has declared that a formal investigation will be launched into the violation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act (Act 1/2014) by the President’s Office and that action will be taken against those responsible for the violations.

The decision followed a hearing by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICOM) on the President’s Office’s failure to comply with an information request by local news outlet Adhadhu, seeking details of President Mohamed Muizzu’s official visit to Türkiye.

The legal team at the President’s Office once again failed to attend Wednesday’s hearing, with Rasheed highlighting that the nation’s highest office had previously requested to postpone all three hearings scheduled on the matter.

After giving the President’s Office a three-day period to provide the information, Rasheed announced that ICOM will now look into the issue of non-compliance.

“I would like to inform the public that the Office of the Information Commissioner will continue with efforts in this matter to investigate why the President’s Office is not abiding by this law and who is responsible,” he said.

“If action is required against those who are negligent or responsible, we will take it,” Rasheed said.

Several RTI requests submitted to the President’s Office have remained unanswered since the current administration took office.

“The President’s Office is the highest government agency, and, above all, to see the President’s Office ignoring such matters could actually weaken this right altogether,” Rasheed had said in an earlier response to the matter.

The apparent refusal to provide information sharply contrasts with President Muizzu’s previous assurances of openness and accountability. Upon assuming office, President Muizzu vowed to usher in an era of transparency, asserting that no RTI applications would be necessary under his government. He pledged readily available information and a cabinet committed to serving the people. This commitment included the establishment of media units across ministries to facilitate transparency.

However, the need for an RTI appeal to obtain information regarding the president’s visit to Türkiye calls into question these assurances. The intervention of ICOM highlights a significant gap between the government’s professed ethos of transparency and its operational realities.

Additional reporting by Andrew Richards