Access to Information Act should be expedited

The Media High Council (MHC), on Thursday, kicked off its countrywide campaign to mobilize local leaders to improve on their working relationship with the media.

The Media High Council (MHC), on Thursday, kicked off its countrywide campaign to mobilize local leaders to improve on their working relationship with the media.

The Council says the idea was conceived partly because of the challenges journalists meet as they try to access information in public offices. Needless to say, accessing information in many public offices is one of the biggest challenges facing practicing journalists in Rwanda. Several officials don’t seem to understand that it’s a journalist’s right to access public information, process it and disseminate it to the people, on whose behalf public offices are run, and are supposed to serve.

Leaders, right from the senior levels of Government to the grassroots, need to understand that they have an obligation to communicate to the people what they are doing; and this can only be done through the media, since not every citizen can be able to personally solicit that information.

The media is a bridge between the leaders and the led, and public office holders should not impede free flow of information to the taxpayer. It is not a favour to provide public information to a journalist.

Furthermore, officials should know that news is perishable. Many a time it’s overtaken by events and so providing information when it is stale is as good as withholding it. Some bureaucrats have made it a habit to frustrate journalists by continually postponing interview appointments. After waiting indefinitely a journalist will have no choice but to give up.

While we salute the MHC’s initiative, we call on the Government and Parliament to expedite the proposed Access to Information Act. We believe it will go a long way in curbing this unfortunate trend.

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