The Ministry of Information has announced that the much anticipated Access to Information Bill is set to go to Cabinet in a month’s time.
Access to information is vital for various reasons including, on one hand, enabling the media to play its watchdog role, and on the other, enabling citizens to participate more actively in public affairs.
With access to information the citizens would have a say in public spending, receive equal access to justice, and hold their public officials accountable when things do not add up.
On various occasions, information is distorted or incomplete, because the media can only access as much information as the holder determines. Important to note is that limitations on access to public information, create a favorable environment for corruption to flourish.
Passing and implementing an access to information act has become a trend throughout the world, particularly in developing nations. If the Bill is passed, Rwanda will join the over 70 countries with the statutory right to information, many of whom enacted the bill within the last decade.
Passing an access to information act, however, is only the first step. Following the promulgation of the legislation, the government must adequately implement and enforce the laws; otherwise, it will become simply a “check the box” exercise and will not increase citizen trust or government accountability.