KIGALI - The Media High Council (MHC), media experts from Canada and Article 19, a global campaign for free expression, yesterday discussed the role of Access to Information Bill.
The bill will guarantee access to data held by the state.
The one-day forum organised by the Canadian High Commission, focused on the role of access to information in improving service delivery.
Speaking at the meeting, Gary Dickson, the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner, said the legislation helps citizens get access to information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.
“Parliament and the public cannot hope to call the government to account without adequate knowledge of what is going on, therefore politically relevant information should be distributed as widely as reasonably possible,” he added.
Dickson highlighted the experience of the access to information in Canada where, he said, there is a growing interest in open government in larger cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton due to access to information.
He commended Rwanda for taking great strides in preparing for the adoption of a groundbreaking law of access to information.
Henry O. Maina the Director, Article 19 Regional office Nairobi- Kenya, stressed that access to information is not the right to the media only, but a right for all the citizens.
“We are very glad that Rwanda is seeking to join other countries worldwide that have an access to information law,” he said.
Maina remarked that when people are denied the right to information and expression, then there is no any other way they can fully participate in democratic governance.
“So far, there are 90 countries in the world that have enacted the law, with only six in Africa, and if Rwanda passes the law, it will be a seventh on the continent,” he noted.
Luke Ibrahim Karema from the MHC, said the bill is at the consultation level and was recently taken to Ombudsman’ office for scrutiny.
“We are planning sensitization campaigns to make the public aware of the importance of the bill,” he added.
Eugene Rwibasira, the former spokesperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, underscored that the civil society involvement in access to information helps them make informed decisions and participate fully in the government programmes.