The Ministry of Information and Communication has concluded a three-day nationwide pre-legislative sensitization tour from Monday 20th to 23th September 2010 on the proposed Freedom of Information Bill that will soon be laid before parliament for approval. The bill when passed into law will give the opportunity to Sierra Leoneans to access public information which in turn will enhance accountability, transparency and development in the country’s democratic process.
The tour was climaxed in Kenema with a one-day workshop for stakeholders comprising of Journalists, Civil Society Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Teachers and Members of the public.
Speaking at the ceremony, Emmanuel Saffa-Abdulai, Media Lawyer and National Coordinator of Society for Democratic Initiative informed participants that the FOI is found in all developed countries in the world which he said needs to be incorporated into the laws of Sierra Leone, hence the need for the sensitization process. He said government has clearly shown that they were committed and ready to pass the Freedom of Information Bill to become an Act of Parliament as law in our constitution. In that line, he expressed his satisfaction and confidence over government’s commitment.
He said FOI will not only enhance accountability but will also help to minimize corruption which has been a bane in our society for so long. “But such vital information relating to the security of the state and that of the privacy of an individual will be kept secret,” he said.
Dan Parkinson, Press Officer in the Ministry of Information and Communication also expressed government’s commitment in passing the bill into law. He pointed out that the bill has already been approved by Cabinet, adding that the Minister of Information and Communication will soon lay the bill before Parliament for ratification. He on that note called on members of the public to exert pressure on their Parliamentarians to speed up the process.
Civil Society representative, David Allieu reechoed that the FOI bill if passed through parliament would not only benefit the masses for national development but also researchers, noting that with FOI, democracy can thrive in the country. He re-affirmed Civil Society support in making the bill becomes law.
Delivering the keynote address, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, Haja Saidata Sesay told participants that the workshop was not political but aimed at ensuring fundamental human rights and the principles of democracy. She called on all to work towards developing a document that could be meaningful to the future generation.
“Freedom of Information law will give people the opportunity to freely access public information as enshrined in international statutory,” she noted, adding that FOI is not just for journalists, but that the public as well will have the right to access information except classified ones. She said the bill when passed into law will make it incumbent on public officials to provide information for those who request for them.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.