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We totally disagree, Sir!

We totally disagree, Sir!

We note with dismay statements made by some members of parliament, specifically those of the parliamentary oversight committee on Information and Communication while addressing the issue of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill which passage in the Honourable house has become a painstaking venture.

The lead campaigners of the FOI, Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI) in collaboration with Freedom of Information Coalition last week convened a high profile conference of relevant stakeholders to discuss the issues around the freedom of information bill and to urge the law-makers to pass the bill which appears to encounter some hiccups along it passage in parliament.

It was during those discussions that an MP, actually a media personality who now doubles as politician, that had argued that the media has no business campaigning for the passage of the bill.

Hon. Frank Kposowa agreed that indeed Freedom of Information is vital for a healthy democracy but that there were some clauses in the bill that do not hold good for media practice in Sierra Leone, the reason why its passage in the legislature has been delayed.

So, on his part he was asking the media to take a back seat in the campaign.

We accept in good faith Hon. Kposowa’s assurance that by September 2011 when they would have returned from their recess they will lobby their colleague parliamentarians to pass the bill into law.

We shall be extremely pleased if that were happen because, as the SDI executive director Saffa Abdulai pointed out, the FOI is not just about the media alone but for every citizen in this country who may seek to access vital information so that they could make an informed opinion on issues affecting their lives.

That notwithstanding, we believe with all due respect to the Honourable Member, that the media cannot be kept out of the campaign. If anything else, it is the journalists more than anyone else that should heighten the momentum.

How can you keep us out of the campaign when it is us who are hit the hardest in the absence of a Freedom of Information Act?

This time we say ‘what touches us most shall be first serve’ and not the reverse. If the media had not been raising voices, the bill would not have reached where it is today.

Like someone hinted at the conference, the fear among parliamentarians is that passing the FOI bill into law would open the floodgate for journalists to bounce beyond their limits, but we believe the Act would contain provisions to guide access to the type of information needed.

That aside, there are other statutory instruments that guide media practitioners and we hope they would not just tread on dangerous ground when they fully know the consequence.

So, let our law-makers don’t feel jittery over the passing of the FOI bill into law but should realize that the media has a greater stake in all this; all the reason why they should champion the campaign.

Hence, we disagree with Hon. Kposowa’s position.

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