Secret Societies Exempt From Sierra Leone FOI Proposal

18 November 2010

“Secret societies” are exempted from the coverage of the proposed freedom of information law in Sierra Leone, according to Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Executive Director of the Society for Democratic Initiatives in Sierra Leone.

“Secret societies are ancient cultural institutions in the Upper Guinea Coast of West Africa and their primary purpose is to regulate sexual identity and social conduct,” according to a brief description contained in a 2007 report for the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. 

Adbulai explained that secret societies are normally not public institutions in the traditional definition of public institutions. He said supporters of the bill had not supported the exemption, however.   

He said that if secret society information does not expose the state to harm and if release is clearly in the public interest,then it should be disclosed. 

A more positive addition to the proposal is a section on government information policy.

Sierra Leone took a major toward adopting a freedom of information law Nov. 11 when Parliament gave the government-proposed bill a first reading and referred it to a committee. (See previous report.)

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