Fallah Ensa Dema a civil society activist over the weekend in Makeni expressed serious disappointment over the conspicuous absence of the Minister of Information and Communication in a 2 day consultative meeting on the Freedom of Information draft bill.
According to him the current Minister of Information and Communication IB Kargbo who was a journalist and one time President of SLAJ should form part of the main pillar in the fight for a freedom of information Act in Sierra Leone.
He observed that while practicing as a journalist and in his capacity as SLAJ President IB Kargbo was very much instrumental in the struggle for a Freedom of Information bill to be enacted in Sierra Leone.
He therefore called on the Minister to fully come on board in the fight for freedom of information.
He also expressed similar disappointment for members of the International Community whom he said direct most of their funds through their agencies here to coordinate programmes with local agencies.
He noted that huge funds had been doled out to ENCISS through CARE International to foster dialogue between civil society and government but stated that the programme is fast collapsing as a result of some of the bureaucracies.
This implicitly points out to the fact that people only show concern when they are out of politics but the sooner they get there, they show little or no concern for certain issues for fear of their positions.
Mr Fallah Ensa Dema without exemption lambasted certain Civil Society Organizations whose interest are limited to what he tagged as the ‘bread and butter’ aspect of things rather than seeking the interest of the suffering masses.
He added that it’s time we encouraged such organizations in a society where the public interest far more outweighs the interest of ‘bread and butter’ issues.
The Public Information Officer of the Anti Corruption Commission Dr. Ivan Ajibola Thomas stated that freedom of information is vital to good governance as it enables the electorate to know about the workings and operations of government which he said would enhance transparency and accountability.
He said it is only by free flow of information that public officials should be accountable for their actions and to some extent enable the people to monitor government activities through free flow of quality information.
He pledged the ACC’s support for open governance initiative and the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act.
Dr. Thomas concluded that the new ACC ACT 2008 is meant to create integrity in public life through investigation, prevention and sensitization.
The Director of the Society for Democratic Initiatives Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai remarked that the freedom of information campaign had dragged on now for five years and the main objective has not been achieved.
He allayed the wrong perception of people who think the freedom of information bill is only meant for journalists, adding that the bill is for everyone, and therefore admonished everyone to come onboard in the fight for freedom of information.
Abdulai expressed optimism that the bill would be passed into law as some of the people who used to support him in the fight for freedom of information were now at the helm of state administration.
He specifically cited Information and Communication Minister I.B. Kargbo and President Earnest Koroma as some of those who promised the speedy enactment of the Freedom of Information bill when they shall have come to power.
The occasion which was participatory was chaired by the President of SLAJ Umaru Fofona who reportedly stated that Freedom of Information is every body’s business as stipulated in chapter 3 of the national constitution of Sierra Leone.
He pointed out that the meeting was very crucial to the sustenance of democracy and good governance as it seeks to convince the ‘powers that be’ to expedite the enactment of the freedom of information bill.
The objective of the meeting was clear as representatives from civil society groups and media practitioners across the country converged at the new Makeni town council to critically examine the draft freedom of information bill so as to give their final input as the bill will most likely be passed into law this year.
By Solomon Rogers