The Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs Mathias Chikawe has said the government is ready to accommodate contributions of media stakeholders in the preparation of Freedom of Information legislation.
“As long as I am here, I will make sure we get more views so that we won’t be criticised for not accommodating broader participation in the whole process of the new legislation, Chikawe told a delegation of the Coalition on Right to Information during a meeting in his office in Dar es Salaam.
The delegation led by the Coalition’s chairperson Kajubi Mukajanga, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), visited the minister yesterday to lay ground for their participation during the preparation of the bill before it is taken to Parliament for enactment into law.
The government is committed to have the legislation to facilitate easy access of information to public, said Chikawe who coordinates Tanzania’s involvement in the implementation of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP), of which Tanzania is a signatory.
Chikawe told the Coalition that the ministry expects to place advertisements calling for opinions from members of the public on the Freedom of Information Law.
He explained that the basis of the OGP is that the government has plenty of information which the people should know.
He cited the government’s annual budget which he said essentially is about the country’s development prepared at top level and that the majority of the people are not aware of.
He said initially the government has begun to release information to the public according to OGP standards in three areas: Water, Health and Education as they concern many people.
For example, in the provision of water people should be able to know that at any given time the number of water points in their areas, and in case some of the water points do not function they should be able to connect with authorities.
Likewise, in health people should know about health facilities, the supply or even shortage of medicine and should be able to report to authorities and in education they should even know the budget allocation for building of classrooms.
He said the government has made strides in updating the websites of ministries including his own which during the Right to Know Day September 28, 2012, emerged as the most difficult ministry to access its information and was “awarded” a “lock” to symbolize secrecy.
Chikawe said he wants to steer clear off negative record pointing out that postings in his ministry’s website are now always updated.
Earlier, the chairperson of the Coalition on Right Information Mukajanga underlined the readiness of the coalition to cooperate in the process leading to the enactment of the Right to Information legislation which is pertinent for national development.
The coalition has been working with the Ministry for Information, Youth Culture and Sports and had represented proposals on two bills – Right to Information in 2007 and Media Service Bill in 2008.
It has emerged lately that the Right to Information bill is handled by the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Following this the Ministry of Information will now deal with the Media Services Bill.
The Coalition on the Right to Information, headed by the MCT, is made up of Members of Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT), Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF), Tanzania Citizen Information Bureau, Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), National Organisation for Legal Aid (nola), Media Institute of Southern Africa –Tanzania Chapter (MISA-Tan0 Article XIX and Commonwealth Human Rights Institute.