Parliament assures SLAJ on FOI Bill
Freetown, July (SLENA) – Clerk of the House of Parliament, Hon. Ibrahim Sesay, has explained reasons for the delay in passing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill into law but assured journalists that the Bill is seriously under consideration and would be ratified immediately the necessary structures needed to ensure easy access to information are put in place.
The Clerk of Parliament, who was addressing the executive of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) that had paid him a familiarization visit to whip-up support for the ratification of the FOI Bill and the repeal of Part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965, said the Bill should have been enacted long ago if facilities that would guarantee journalists and the wider society easy access to information had been set-up.
“What is holding this Bill (from being passed into law) is the necessity to first organize the information itself in a way that you can access it easily – either from the library or some other public places,” explained the Clerk of Parliament.
“I refer to it as the ‘Access to Information Bill’ because the Constitution already makes provision for freedom of information. You already have the freedom to get information; all you need now is how you can access that information,” he added.
Hon. Sesay, who served two parliamentary terms before assuming the position of Clerk of Parliament, informed SLAJ that they are currently developing the House’s library, and that by the time the FOI Bill is passed into law, the facility would have been ready to meet the information needs of journalists and Sierra Leoneans in general.
However, the Clerk also spoke about the importance of journalists handling information provided them responsibly and not use it to jeopardize the security of the State.
“Also important is trying to know who the information being requested is meant for. We do not want to see a situation wherein information being provided to people finds its way in the hands of al-Qaeda. But I think the Bill will seek to address the issue of misuse of information,” he said.
Speaking earlier on, SLAJ president, Kelvin Lewis said he and his executive were in Parliament to build a proper working relationship with the House to help enhance the democratic process in the country. Parliament, he said, is an important institution in State governance and that as the umbrella body for all journalists in the country, SLAJ appreciates their support to the Press Gallery.
Director of Public Relations in Parliament, Cyril Juxon-Smith, said he was pleased about the visit, which he said has never been done before by a SLAJ executive. He thanked the Clerk for granting audience to the Association.
Meanwhile, the Clerk presented to Mr. Lewis on behalf of SLAJ a book titled, ‘Essay on the Sierra Leone Constitution, 1991’ written by Dr. Abdulai Conteh for the Association’s membership to enrich their knowledge in readiness for the debate on the Constitutional Review process.
The visit was the first by a SLAJ executive for many years.
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