By KWAME YANKSON
Freetown, 29th October, 2013- The Sierra Leone Parliament today enacted into law, the Right to Access Information Act, 2013 otherwise known as, the “Freedom of Information Act”.
The Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alpha B.S. Khanu in presenting the Bill told parliamentarians and members of the public that the Right to Access Information has today become a human right component in the administration of modern States aimed at promoting transparency, good governance and accountability. An important feature of the bill, the Minister said, is that which has to do with efficient records keeping within Ministries, Departments and Agencies and even Non-Governmental organizations.
Records keeping among State and Non-State actors had collapsed over the years, and it is the fervent belief of the Minister that with the advent of the Right to Access Information Act, Sierra Leoneans will inculcate the art of record keeping and the development of libraries and archives.
Khanu in his usual confident and convincing posture allayed the fear of some parliamentarians who were of the belief that the Right to Access Information Act is aimed at giving Journalists a field day to poke into the private lives of public officers. He said the exempt clauses in Part 111 of the Act are the safeguards for individual’s personal lives, traditional societies and that of our national security.
“The Act does not favour Journalists in the strict sense of the word, rather every citizen including Researchers, academics and the ordinary man at Krubola in Koinadugu district stands to benefit from this Act”, Khanu emphasized.
Hon. Frank Kposowa of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s party in his contribution informed the House that Sierra Leone has joined 94 countries in the world including 11 countries in Africa that have enacted the Right to Access Information Bill. He said the Bill is designed to fight against ignorance and make way for an open government initiative… “It is designed to restore human dignity and to usher in effective monitoring of Government expenditure. This will build up confidence in the system.” He concluded.
The passage of the Right to Access Information Act 2013 has further increased His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Koroma’s democratic credentials. Upon assumption of office in 2007, he committed himself to ensuring that every citizen has access to timely and accurate information by creating institutions like the Open Government Initiative (OGI) where citizens have direct access to the President and all State functionaries through town hall meetings to explain Government’s policies and programmes uncensored.
The creation of the Office of the Government Spokesman and the hosting of weekly Press briefings at the Ministry of Information and Communications further demonstrates President Koroma’s genuine commitment to transparency and accountability in the governance of the State.
The Right to Access Information Bill was first introduced to Sierra Leone’s Parliament as a Government motion by the former Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo in 2010 and committed to the Legislative Committee on two occasions.