Saturday, 16 June 2012

What happened to the Freedom of Information Bill?

By Alykhan V.

Since this website first came online in May 2012, we have followed issues of transparency in Tanzania. The backbone of transparency, at least in terms of legislation, is the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) which gives citizens the right to access publicly held information and any other such information deemed to be in the public interest. In recent years, with the proliferation of the internet and mobile technology, information can be transmitted at incredible speeds and being able to keep information secret has great advantages. Lack of access leads to what is known as information asymmetry, where one party knows more than the other by virtue of having privileged access and using this privilege to their advantage. Therefore the Right to Access Information is central to reducing this information asymmetry, giving ordinary citizens access to government held information and hence another way of keeping check on government corruption.

The Freedom of Information legislation has a had a turbulent history in Tanzania (read our coverage here). As part of its commitments while joining the Open Government Partnership in 2011, the government promised to conduct global best practices for the FOI Act. But hold on! A bill was submitted in 2006 for public discussion but this was promptly rejected by media stakeholders who returned with recommendations of their own in 2007. So after 5 years of sitting with this information, the Ministry of Information is still working on a global best practices model?? Apart from that, many international organizations dealing with FOI legislation have done extensive reviews and come up with a draft model bill with provisions that truly provide the citizens with the right to access information. One such organization, Article19 has also provided the Ministry with expertise during the inital review process in 2007.

So, the logical conclusion one reaches from this is that there is a deliberate attempt to delay giving citizens the Right to Access information. Even though us citizens do not have the right to demand information from government officials (YET!), our elected Members of Parliament (MPs) do. Therefore we need our MPs to really question the Ministry of Information, Youth and Sports as to what progress is made on the FOI Bill and more importantly to give a definite TIME as to when they will submit such a Bill to parliament.

To gather support for this motion, Uhuru Blog will ask this question every day to MPs who are active on Twitter until we get a response (starting from Friday 15th June 2012). If you agree with our campaign, follow us on Twitter and retweet this question everytime you see it! Together we can all Change Tanzania for the better!

are any of you following up on Freedom of Info. Bill?

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