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Right to Access Information Bill tabled in Parliament

Right to Access Information Bill tabled in Parliament

As the civil society organization leading the Freedom of Information Coalition, supporters of freedom of information in Sierra Leone, Society Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone (SDI) is very pleased to announce that the Right to Access Information Bill was today tabled in Parliament.

After seven years of laborious work in lobbying, education of Parliamentarians and sensitization of the general public by SDI and its coalition partners, this is a particularly momentous occasion, not just for SDI and its fellow civil society organizations but for the people of Sierra Leone. As aptly described by the Minister for Information, the Honourable Ibrahim Ben Kargbo , today in Parliament, enactment of the Right to Access Information Bill will promote good governance, transparency and accountability and give sustenance to Sierra Leone’s democratic culture.

The Bill was given its first reading in Parliament by the Minister for Information and was met with almost unanimous messages of support from Parliamentarians. The Minister recognized in his address that freedom of information is a critical human right component in the administration of any modern state, a message echoed by his fellow Parliamentarians.

Members of Parliament also recognized that the Bill incorporated general principles of best practice in relation to international freedom of information legislation and special mention was made of the Research Department of Government and its paper on comparative analysis of freedom of information legislation which facilitated the debate.

Today’s Parliamentary reading of the Bill followed yesterday’s very productive Pre-legislative Workshop and Sensitization on the Bill held in the Diplomatic Hall of Parliament. Parliamentarians were encouraged to actively debate the Bill and an expert speaker in the form of the Senior Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Information was on hand to provide guidance to Parliamentarians. The Bill was widely commended in the Workshop, a message which carried through to today’s Parliamentary meeting.

Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Executive Director of SDI and a leading architect behind the drafting and promotion of the Bill, commented that “We are very excited weve come this far. After seven years of civil society hard work, Government has finally decided to legislate the Right to Access Information Bill. We believe that, with the passage of the Bill, the politics and governance of Sierra Leone will dramatically change for the better.”

The next step in the process is for the Bill to be passed to the Legislative Committee before returning to Parliament. SDI hopes for a speedy resolution of due process and therefore prompt enactment of the Bill into national legislation.

Society for Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone

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