Stakeholders propose changes to Access to Information Bill

Kigali - The Rwanda Civil Society Platform and National Human Rights Commission, yesterday, tabled their proposals on the Access to Information Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs.
L-R: Ignatius Kabagambe, Director General in the Prime Minister’s Office, MP Alfred  Rwasa and MP Yvonne Uwayisenga during the tabling of proposals on the Access to Information Bill before the  PSC committee. The New Times / John Mbanda
L-R: Ignatius Kabagambe, Director General in the Prime Minister’s Office, MP Alfred Rwasa and MP Yvonne Uwayisenga during the tabling of proposals on the Access to Information Bill before the PSC committee. The New Times / John Mbanda

Kigali - The Rwanda Civil Society Platform and National Human Rights Commission, yesterday, tabled their proposals on the Access to Information Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Political Affairs.

“The positive attributes of the Bill are highly appreciated; however, we want Parliament to consider the revision of the exemption clause,” said Fredrick Karanganwa, the Policy and Advocacy Coordinator of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform.

He added that the bill should clearly clarify the term ‘unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual’, to ensure that information of public nature on an individual is not denied to the public under the pretext of individual privacy.

The bill prohibits the involvement of unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual.

Article 5 also forbids damaging a public authority’s position in any actual or contemplated legal proceedings, and according to Mr. Karanganwa, this could be a hindrance to access to information and can serve as a claw back clause that could take back the same rights recognised under the same law.  

“Regarding the ‘Harm test clause’ in Article Six, we suggest that an independent organisation like civil society organisations and private media should be part of these consultations in order to have guidelines that reflect representative views” he recommended.

He further proposes that the penalties related to refusal to give information should be increased in case there are repeat offences.

Karanganwa pointed out that the Bill is silent on situations where the requested information is in the public body’s possession but cannot be found.

“In this case, we recommend that the bill should impose obligations to the public authority or the designated private body, to clearly show all steps taken in search for the information and inform and contact details of those involved. In case this information is found at a later date, it should be availed to the requester,” he offered.

In a petition to the Committee, the National Human Rights Committee said that, given the oversight roles of the Ombudsman’s Office according to the draft Bill, certain clauses will lead to duplication of work of entities such as the judiciary.

“It’s only the court that has the right to order a company or an individual to pay a fine as stipulated by Article 140 of the Constitution. The Ombudsman’s Office doesn’t have those powers,” noted Innocent Mugisha from the National Human Rights Commission.

He added that the bill overlooks damage assessment, noting that there was no way a fine can be charged without assessing the damage.

The Chairperson of the Political Committee, Alfred Rwasa, said they would consider all the proposals during the revision of the Bill.

“Some elements tabled today are already catered for by other laws, but those that are new will be discussed as we go through the Bill, article by article,” said Rwasa.

edwin.musoni@newtimes.co,rw

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