Information Communication Minister Tjekero Tweya has cautioned that government was not in a rush to pass into law the much awaited for Access to Information Bill, The Villager can inform.
Tweya has been in the media spotlight recently for suggesting that government would take measures to regulate the media.
The minister said that the piece of legislation would go through the normal democratic process which entails interrogation by different relevant institutions and individuals and would not be rushed.
“Let me be clear, this is part of the democratic process. Democracy is an expensive commodity. You do not rush, you must take all these institutions and individuals into account because they want to have a say. Therefore, if you do not see it today in parliament, it is not that the minister is perhaps sitting on it, the minister must comply (with) the democratic principles to consult and get the views of everybody,” he said.
Tweya expressed optimism that the Access to Information Bill would see the light of the day but the various consultations which it will go through will take long before it is finalized.
Despite having courted the wrath of the media fraternity recently with his utterings that suggested to muzzle the media, Tweya has come out clean and confirmed his dedication to ensuring a free press where relevant public information is sought, received and imparted without bureaucratic red tapes or closed doors.
“I would like to reiterate government’s commitment to ensuring that our people have access to information in order to make meaningful decisions and choices about their lives and livelihoods. This is the commitment of government. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology is mandated to ensure access to information by all not by some. We mean business and not lip service,” he said.
The process of drafting the bill commenced this year and it has been presented to stakeholders for input in June, with the consultations taking a week.
The consultations on the working document were done and facilitated by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), The Action Coalition, Media Institute of Southern Africa Namibia (MISA), Legal Assistance Centre , Editors’ Forum, Namibia Media Trust and all NGOS and Civic Society Organisation.
Meanwhile the bill is awaiting cabinet before the drafters translate it into legal language and later taken to the Attorney General for certification on its conformity to all other existing legislations and the Supreme Law of the land.
While Secretary for the Editors’ Forum Dani Booysen expressed his delight at the speed at which government was moving, he however advised that the process of accessing information ought not to be too cumbersome and slow for the citizenry.
“We are at the point where we have the draft, a lot of work was done to put additional input which is excellent. The Action Coalition pointed out various aspects they would like to see changed. We hope they will take a look at that. But it is also important that the process to get access to information should not become too cumbersome for the normal man on the street who requires that they won’t need to wait for a long time till they get access to this information,” he said.
MISA Namibia Director Natasha Tibinyane also expressed her delight at the sterling performance of Tweya’s ministry with regards to the bill sighting that the process was democratic in the first drafting process.
“MISA Namibia is very pleased with the performance of the ministry of information this year, the process right from the beginning was consultative,” she submitted.
Commenting on the implications of the bill, Deputy Minister of ICT Stanley Simataa said, “From UNESCO’s perspective, universal access to information depends on the legal right to information and the practical dimension of implementation of access rights including through the powerful new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as well as the media and the information literacy empowerment of people.”