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Divergent views over appointment of information commissioner

The media ombudsman, John Nakuta, and Namibia Media Trust Director Zoe Titus said the proposed appointment process of the Information Commissioner and deputy commissioners is transparent while the member of parliament Henny Seibeb sees it as problematic. 

Namibia Media Trust director Zoe Titus said the appointment of the information commissioner and deputies and its process detailed in the bill is transparent and provides clear guidelines. 

Information minister Dr Peya Mushelenga tabled the Access to Information (ATI) bill in the National Assembly on Wednesday. 

Titus and Civil society has been waiting diligently since 1998 to see the Access To Information bill tabled in the National Assembly. However, Titus admitted that there is a long period ahead even after it has been passed in parliament.   

Titus said the tabling of the bill is the first step to guaranteed access to information.  

Landless People’s Movement member of Parliament Henny Seibeb said for the president to appoint the commissioner and the deputy commissioner as problematic and termed this process as outdated. 

Seibeb questioned the independence of the information commissioner and the deputy commissioner if appointed by the President. 

Seibeb admitted that any position appointed by the President creates an imbalance therefore this process needs to be thoroughly analysed. 

According to the bill, the President appoints in writing the Information Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner after the National Assembly by resolution approves the appointment of a candidate from a list of two or more candidates nominated by the Selection Committee. 

The selection committee is approved by the National Assembly as well. 

The Information Commissioner and deputy commissioners will protect, monitor and protect the right of access of the information in Namibia. 

The Information Commissioner has the power to determine the nature, process and undertakings necessary to discharge his or her mandate in terms of this Act, including all work necessary for the promotion, monitoring and protection of the right to access to information in all sectors of society. 

Media Ombudsman John Nakuta said the appointment process does not have sufficient public participation although one member of the selection committee includes a person from civil society.

Nakuta said Public participation is essential as the bill is for the people at the end of the day.

The Media Ombudsman said the appointment process is consistent with the African Commission Model Law on Access to Information for Africa 2013. 

Nakuta questioned why the Information Commissioner’s annual report must be given to the Information Minister but the commissioner accounts to the National Assembly. 

Nakuta concurred with Titus saying the tabling of the bill is a step in the right direction.

“It is long-awaited,” Nakuta said.

Wonder Guchu

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