The Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Peya Mushelenga, on Wednesday tabled the Access to Information Bill, which will remove one of the obstacles that have been hampering Namibian journalists from accessing critical information when they rightly want to inform the public.
With the enactment of this long-overdue Bill, the culture of secrecy that has contributed to corrupt activities thriving under the apartheid-era laws such as the so-called Protection of Information Act will be nipped in the bud.
The public through the mass media would have easier access to information that is in the public domain and could promote transparency.
This legislation once passed by parliament will make it easier for ordinary citizens to have access to information and data, and at this juncture, we should point out freedom of expression and having a media access law are important and fundamental tenets of any democracy.
Mushelenga when tabling the much-anticipated Bill in the National Assembly indicated there is a clarion appeal among many African countries to undertake legislative reform with the understanding that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right in any democratic country.
Mushelenga rightly said if this Act is properly implemented, the access to information legislation holds the promise of fostering good governance by improving information management and by enhancing transparency, accountability and greater participation of the populace in affairs of the state that have a direct bearing on the public.
Allowing free access to information is synonymous and goes hand-in-glove with democracy particularly on the African continent where repressive and autocratic, secretive, opaque regimes ensured the general public did not have easy access to much-needed information. Allowing the public easy access to information enriches the ground for democracy to thrive for the benefit of the public that has a larger stake in how their government operates. Even at the village level, villagers should have easy access to certain information that concerns them.
Access to Information Bill serves as a critical tool in the fight against corruption and it enables citizens to fully participate and to make the officials they elected to be accountable. A well-informed electorate chooses people with impeccable credentials to govern them and not people that have dubious credentials who are unfit for public office. Freedom of information is a fundamental human right. It is a cornerstone of all our freedoms. Revered former anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela once said, a critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. On the import of a free media, the late statesman had further said, “the press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution so that it can protect our rights as citizens.” That said, the tabling of the Access to Information Bill would enrich our democracy and boost our civil liberties.
2020-06-19 10:49:09 | 20 days ago