KIGALI - The highly anticipated Access to Information Bill, which if passed, will make it an obligation for public officials to release information, is set to go to Cabinet in a month’s time.
According to Ignatius Kabagambe, the Director General in the Ministry of Information, officials in the ministry are in the final stages of drafting a paper to be submitted to the cabinet before the end of next month.
Media practitioners have welcomed the bill drafted by the Media High Council (MHC) mid last year which is expected to remove barriers journalists have been facing with regard to access to information from public officials.
“The Ministry of Information is working on it; we received it about a week ago from the Media High Council. In a month or so, the paper will be tabled before the cabinet,” Kabagambe told The New Times.
The Access to Information Bill will give a time limit within which officials should release information and will afford media practitioners in the country a no-holds-barred access to information.
It will also compel institutions, government officials and individuals with information of public interest, to pass it on without any hesitation or risk legal sanctions.
According Patrice Mulama, the Executive Secretary of MHC, the bill was forwarded to the Ministries of Information and Local Government for further study before it could go to the cabinet.
“So far they have told us that the document is well done and very systematic, it includes ideas of all stakeholders and it should be acceptable to be tabled before the Cabinet,” Mulama said yesterday.
During the drafting process, Mulama told The New Times that when the bill goes into force, it will set the procedures for receiving the particular information as requested by a journalist and the period within which to get feedback.
He added that the exception will only be on information considered classified and extraordinary, especially when it concerns national security, but where it doesn’t, it will be the responsibility of all to allow access to information to the media.
In what will be a landmark breakthrough for the Rwandan media, all custodians of information who will be found to have ‘sat’ on public information will ‘feel the pinch’ according to Mulama, because the act will be considered an offence and punishable by law.
Mulama said that the MHC is going to embark on a month long awareness campaign to sensitise local government officials and other institutions on the bill.
The MHC official said that journalists should file an official complaint with the MHC in case they are denied information following which the media body will look into the case and take the necessary measures.