Tuesday, May 8, 2012

APC Camp In Disarray Over FOI Bill

(IIJ) - The passing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill has faced strong resistance especially by the majority leader of the House of Parliament Honourable S.B.B Dumbuya following the assurance by the Minister of Information and Communication, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo to journalists.

From left Vice President and President of Sierra Leone

The minister said emphatically that the law would be passed into law this week.

The minister who represents the executive arm of government assurance met a serious resistance from the Legislative with no less a person than the majority leader of Parliament Honourable S.B.B Dumbuya.  Hon. Dumbuya on the 3rd of May 2012 attacked members of the fourth estate and threatened that he will not help the head of Parliamentary Committee on Information and Communication Honourable Frank Kposowa to pass the FOI Bill.
The Bill which has been lying in Parliament for some two years SALONE TIMES learnt is still in a committee stage.

The minister’s assurance was made at an advocacy workshop on the country’s media laws, organised by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) with support from UNESCO, Mr Kargbo said he had spoken with the Speaker and Members of Parliament and that the bill would be brought before the House again this week for immediate passage.

He admitted that the Criminal and Seditious Libel Law of 1965 was bad but sounded noncommittal as to whether the law would be repealed as had been promised on several occasions by President Ernest BaiKoroma.

This is not the first time Government has committed itself to an immediate promulgation of the FOI Act. In the past the pledges were not respected. However, SLAJ President Umaru Fofana has lauded the statement by the minister regarding the promised enactment of the FOI Law next week, saying, “If it does happen as promised, it will be a watershed in the country’s history”. He however questioned the “lack of commitment on the part of government regarding a repeal of the obnoxious Criminal and Seditious Libel Law” for which SLAJ went to the Supreme Court in 2008.

At the workshop itself, 30 journalists drawn from across the country were told about what constitutes Criminal and Seditious Libel and when it can and cannot be used. They were also told about the Freedom of Information Law and what it would mean for the practice of journalism if it were passed into law

The head of the Parliamentary Committee of Information and Communication Honourable Frank Kposowa said that he will settle it with his colleagues.

Currently, the parties are worries what will happen if such Bill is not enacted more especially when the government has made several promises to the Press about the criminal lie bell law and the FOI law. The FOI law will pave the will for transparent and accountable governance if enacted.

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