The Minister of Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, has expressed his government’s commitment to the passage of the freedom of information bill, “as the law would reduce libel as journalists would have free access to information and would stop speculating”.
Speaking to members of the civil society who were spearheading the freedom of information campaign in Sierra Leone, during a courtesy call at his Youyi Building Officer, he expressed his delight about the visit and thanked the group for keeping up the momentum on the campaign.
The president, he said, is very much interested in freedom of information and has authorized the Ministry of Information to facilitate government’s action on the passage of the bill. “However, we had not wanted to duplicate the situation since there was already a private member bill pioneered by civil society”, he stated.
The Minister further stated that there is the misconception that “FOI is a media issue, but FOI is for everybody”. “If my grandfather died in mysterious circumstances fifty years ago and there is record to the effect, I have the right to access such information. Or if my dad was killed in an alleged coup plot and information to that shed light on his innocence, I have a right to access such information”, he lectured.
Earlier, the head of the delegation and director of Society for Democratic Initiatives, Emmanuel Saffa-Abdulai said the purpose of the visit was to “update the minister on the status of campaign and to formally present the minister with the bill”.
Giving the background of the campaign, Mr. Abdulai said the campaign is five years old and that the minister, when he was president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, was very active in the campaign. He further intimated the minister that a “civil society draft bill is ready for presentation to parliament either as government sponsored bill or a private member bill”.
The courtesy call is a second phase of legislative and executive advocacy by Society for Democratic Initiatives and its partner institution for the promulgation of the access to information law. The first phase has been face-to-face meetings with parliamentarians canvassing them to support a private member bill.
By Abibatu D. Kamara