Media stakeholders discuss Access to Information Law

A workshop by various partners was held Tuesday to discuss the content of the Access to Information Law, which came into force recently.
A cameraman at work. Access to Information Law is still being streamlined to appeal to the media. The New Times/  File.
A cameraman at work. Access to Information Law is still being streamlined to appeal to the media. The New Times/ File.

A workshop by various partners was held Tuesday to discuss the content of the Access to Information Law, which came into force recently.

The law that eases access to public information, whether held by public or private institutions, saw Rwanda becoming the 11th African country with that kind of legislation that seeks to ease the work of media practitioners.

The meeting discussed drafts of several ministerial orders that will complement the law, including the confidentiality clause. It was organised by the Rwanda Governance Board and chaired by the Ombudsman’s office, which will oversee its implementation.

Other orders include the proactive disclosure by State organs, the time limit for such disclosures and the charges where necessary.

Speaking after the meeting, Xavier Mbarubukeye, the permanent secretary in the Ombudsman’s office, said the discussions were timely.

“Through these meetings, we are gaining knowledge and borrowing ideas on how we will operate and implement the law,” Mbarubukeye said.

Henry Maina, the director of the media watchdog Article19 Eastern Africa, who also attended the meeting, said it is crucial that after the law was gazetted, the ministerial orders are being drafted to ensure expeditious implementation.

“With some of the draft ministerial orders, more work have to be done, like the one talking about fact disclosure or lack of security. If you look at the one of proactive disclosure, the main challenge is that there is no clarity on the procedure to be taken by each agency or organisation to be allowed to develop its own procedure. That could be dangerous because there won’t be uniformity in what is being done,” Maina revealed.

He said Rwanda could borrow from the Liberian Freedom of Information Act, which is clear on what can be done on the proactive disclosure.

“Given the histories of the two countries, then there wouldn’t be much to be changed that’s within an African context and a country in transition from an unfortunate historical moment,” he said.

Representatives of security organs promised to work with relevant drafting organs to define what was restricted, or confidential information.

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