FOI Bill in Sierra Leone Assigned to Committee

8 June 2012

The Sierra Leone Minister of Information and Communication June 7 submitted freedom of information  legislation to Parliament where it was again sent to the Legislative Committee for scrutiny.

FOI legislation has languished in the Legislative Committee in the past, and the initial debate on the bill indicated that some parliamentarians are strongly opposed to it, according to observers.

“Let us hope that history will not repeat itself,” said Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, director of the Society for Democratic Initiatives,  He described himself as “cautiously optimistic about progress.”

A electronic copy of the bill was not available, but a few clauses have been added to an initial draft. One addition would say that the law would not come into effect until 18 months after passage. Another provision would mandate funding for implementation of the bill.

“The mandatory funding came from the blue and we have still not figured out how the ministry came up with this,” Abdulai said. “However, it will be a very novel provision in FOI regimes around the world, it is a good addition.”

A FOI bill was introduced in the House in September 2010, and by October 2011 had gone through the first-, second-, third-, and committee-stage readings. Supporters had hoped that the government would use procedures that would bypass committee consideration.

A column by Samuel Ben Turay describing SDI activities was published June 7 in the Concord Times.

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