Freedom of Information bill for Zambia?

By Richard Lee | November 24th, 2011

In a very welcome move just a day after South Africa's parliament voted for the 'Secrecy Bill', the Zambian government announced that it was committed to not only enacting a Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill but also to implementing it. 

Speaking at a conference organised by the World Bank, the Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism, Given Lubinda, said that the new law would help to change the culture of secrecy that currently characterises Zambian public institutions and would contribute to transparency, democracy and national development.

He added that the government would constitute a committee - including public officials, experts and civil society representatives - to give guidance on the development of this legislation and appealed to civil society organisations and members of the public to actively participate in both the enactment and implementation of the FOI bill.

The World Bank Director for Zambia, Kundhavi Kadiresan said it was the right time for Zambia to enact the bill because information helps members of the public to hold those in power accountable, adding that transparency and access to information were at the very heart of both democracy and development.

“Often those with information don’t like to share it because it is power," she said, "And if it is given to average citizens, it will give them the power to hold those in power to account.”

Meanwhile, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chairperson, Daniel Sikazwe, welcomed the Popular Front government’s announcement, saying that the people of Zambia had waited a long time for this law.

Sikazwe implored the government to expedite the process since the FOI law would not only benefit those in the media fraternity, but all Zambians as it would finally give them the right to access information.

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