One of the eight consumer rights agreed to internationally was the right to be informed. Over the years consumers have been able to receive their information from the newspapers of their preference. The government has a social responsibility to ensure that every citizen receives government information. When the government chooses to put the information in one newspaper it is not possible to say that there is freedom of information.
The cost of newspapers is relatively high and does not allow for many consumers to access more than one daily newspaper. Below is the first part of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill which is not the right to Freedom of Information but rather Access to Information. The third right of the consumer states: The right to be informed.
The Bill is in accord with Article 146 of the constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right to freedom of information is increasingly accepted as a necessary adjunct to participatory democracy the world over. The rationale for the right stems from the concept of open and transparent government and freedom of information may be viewed as capable of advancing a number of desirable objectives in the society. It helps to make government more accountable. It acts as a weapon in the fight against corruption and contributes to improving the quality of official decision-making.
This Bill provides for setting out a practical regime of right to information for persons to secure access to information under the control of the Public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of the government and public authorities and for the appointment of the Commissioner.
The Bill is divided into six Parts and has a Schedule.
Part I deals with preliminary matters. It sets out the short title to the Act and its commencement. It identifies the definition of terms and expressions used in the Bill. It states the objectives of the act which are to extend the right of members of the public to access information in the possession of a public authority. This Part also addresses the application of the Act.
Part II deals with the appointment, removal and powers of the Commissioner of Information
Part III addresses the publication in the Gazette and in a local daily newspaper by the Commissioner of Information of certain documents and information. It identifies the documents and categories of documents provided by a public authority for the use and guidance of the public authority or its officers. Statements of possession of certain documents have also to be published. A person may serve upon the Commissioner of Information a notice in writing stating that a statement published by the commissioner does not specify a document for category of documents that is required to be specified in the statement.
To be continued