Sierra Leone Moves Toward Adopting FOIA Legislation

11 November 2010

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.

“After seven years of laborious work in lobbying, education of Parliamentarians and sensitization of the general public by SDI and its coalition partners, this is a particularly momentous occasion, not just for SDI and its fellow civil society organizations but for the people of Sierra Leone,” according to a statement by the Society of Democratic Initiatives, a leading member of the Freedom of Informatin Coalition.

The Right to Access Information Bill “was given its first reading in Parliament by the Minister for Information and was met with almost unanimous messages of support from Parliamentarians,” according to the SDI statement. “The Minister recognized in his address that freedom of information is a critical human right component in the administration of any modern state, a message echoed by his fellow Parliamentarians.”

The statement continued, “Members of Parliament also recognized that the Bill incorporated general principles of best practice in relation to international freedom of information legislation and special mention was made of the Research Department of Government and its paper on comparative analysis of freedom of information legislation which facilitated the debate.”

The previous day, a Pre-legislative Workshop and Sensitization was held in the Diplomatic Hall of Parliament. Parliamentarians at which the bill was explained and debated.  “The Bill was widely commended in the Workshop, a message which carried through to today’s Parliamentary meeting,” according to the SDI statement, which was signed by Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, the Executive Director of SDI.

The next step is for the bill to be considered by the Legislative Committee before returning to Parliament. SDI said it “hopes for a speedy resolution of due process and therefore prompt enactment of the Bill into national legislation.”

A Sierra Express Media report described the bill as “a fine draft, having emanated mainly from the 2005 civil society draft that was wholly adopted by government, with only two provisions added to it.” The additions “were the exclusion of secret societies; and the incorporation of the government’s information policy into the FOI concept.”

The news was also reported in Awareness Times with mention of the need for better recordkeping.

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