Rwanda Publishes New Law on Right to Information

13 March 2013

Rwanda has a right to information law, the 11th in Africa and the 94th in the world.

The new law was formally gazetted on March 11 (See Official Gazette No 10, the March 11 issue, page 66). It was passed by parliament in November 2012.

The law came into force on the date of publication and several orders from the Mnister of Information will be necessary to proivde greater definition.

The minister is instructed by the law to issue orders “determining which information could destabilize national security,” setting procedures for making requests and charging fees, indicating what “vital information” must be proactively disclosed, and saying what private organs are covered by the law.

The law applies to private organs “whose activities are in connection with public interest, human rights and freedoms.” Making provision for special situations, the law  specifies, “Any interested person may request a competent court to order that a private organ to which this Law does not apply provides some information required in the interest to preserve the life or liberty of persons.”

The law contains five exceptions. These cover disclosures that “may”:  “destabilize national security;  impede the enforcement of Law or justice;  involve interference in the privacy of an individual when it is not of public interest; violate the legitimate protection of trade secrets or other intellectual property rights protected by the Law; and obstruct actual or contemplated legal proceedings against the management of public organ.”

The new law says information shall be disclosed “where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest of not disclosing such information,” and lays out five areas to be considered in determining the pubic interest.

Passage Praised

Henry Maina, Director of Article19 in Eastern Africa, said in a statement, “This passage of this law shows that the Rwandan government is keen to entrench transparency and accountability as well as enhancing greater participation by citizens in the management of public affairs.”

“We are enormously proud to be associated with the spirited campaign that has championed this law” said Maina, saying Article 19 has led multi-stakeholder initiatives advocating for the enactment of this law with local groups like the Rwanda Civil Society Platform.

Maina praised the law’s scope, saying is applies not only to public bodies but also to some private bodies which carry out work in the public interest. “There is a strong emphasis on the importance of the public interest in the right to information and we are pleased to see that this is reflected by limited fees to pay, which will cover the cost of the reproduction of papers and for postage,” he said.

“The law also has clear provisions on proactive disclosure and allows for all people to seek, receive and disseminate information, which is a progressive step as other laws on the continent only allow citizens this right.”

Some broad exemptions are included in the law, Article 19 said, concerning national security and the administration of justice and trade secrets.

Article 19 now called on the Minister of Information “to speed up the consultation process on implementation guidelines will set clear time limits for the provision of information or explanations where access to such information has been denied.” Access to information applications should be addressed within 30 days and appeals in 60 days, the London-based freedom of expression group wrote.

“It is absolutely vital that the guidelines make it clear that where requests for information have not been dealt with in time or where the information requested has been denied, the person requesting that information is entitled to an appeal to the Office of Ombudsman,” according to Maina.

Enforcement will be monitored by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Rwandan Cabinet  on June 1, 2011, approved an Access to Information bill and supporters at the time were hoping for it to be signed into law in late September. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

A February article in The New Times provides background and commentary on the bill, which was first proposed in 2009.

The other African countries with freedom of information regimes are: Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea-Conagry, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

English Text

(The following is taken from the official Gazette version, but may vary in spacing and the use of boldface type. – Ed.)

LAW N° 04/2013 OF 08/02/2013 RELATING TO ACCESS TO INFORMATION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I: GENERAL PROVISIONS

Article One: Purpose of this Law

Article 2: Definitions of terms

CHAPTER II: RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Article 3: Access to information

Article 4: Confidential information

Article 5: Information that may destabilize national security

Article 6: Public interest in disclosure of information

Article 7: Disclosure of vital information to the public

CHAPTER III: REQUEST AND OBTAINING INFORMATION

Article 8: Information officers in public organs

Article 9: Request for information

Article 10: Fees required to provide information

Article 11: Examining an application for information

Article 12: Correction of personal information

CHAPTER IV: COMPLIANCE WITH THIS LAW BY PRIVATE ORGANS

Article 13: Private bodies to which this Law applies

Article 14: Access to information in private organ to which this Law does not apply

Article 15: Information officers in private bodies

CHAPTER V: MISCELLANEOUS AND FINAL PROVISIONS

Article 16: Protection of persons who disclosed information

Article 17: Enforcement of this Law

Article 18: Drafting, consideration and adoption of this Law

Article 19: Repealing provision

Article 20: Commencement

 LAW N° 04/2013 OF 08/02/2013 RELATING TO ACCESS TO INFORMATION

We, KAGAME Paul,

President of the Republic;

THE PARLIAMENT HAS ADOPTED AND WE SANCTION, PROMULGATE THE FOLLOWING LAW AND ORDER IT BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE OF THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA

THE PARLIAMENT:

The Chamber of Deputies, in its session of 19 November 2012;

The Senate, in its session of 15 November 2012;

Pursuant to the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 04 June 2003 as amended to date, especially in Articles 33, 34, 62, 66, 67, 88, 89, 90, 92, 93, 94, 95, 108, 182 and 201;

Pursuant to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December, 1948, especially in Article 19;

Pursuant to the International Covenant of 16 December 1966 on Civil and Political Rights as ratified by the Decree-Law no 08/75 of 12/02/1975, especially in Article 19;

Pursuant to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of 27 June 1981 as ratified by Law no 10/1983 of 01/07/1983, especially in Article 9;

ADOPTS:

CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL PROVISIONS

Article One: Purpose of this Law

This Law shall enable the public and journalists to access information possessed by public organs and some private bodies.

This Law shall also establish modalities and procedures to promote the publication and dissemination of information.

Article 2: Definitions of terms

In this Law, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

1° information: facts, things intended to be done, speeches held in reports, documents to be published, pictures, mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, papers, samples, and any other material of public interests held in any form by a public organ and certain organs of private bodies;

2° access to information: to request, receive, look at, understand, peruse, take a sample of, copy and use information in a way that is not contrary to the Law;

3° Minister: the Minister in charge of information;

4° private body: a body that is not a public organ but that carries any business in relation to public interest, or to rights and freedoms of people;

5° public organ: administrative entity established by the Constitution or any other Laws or any other organ that uses money from the national budget or any money originating from tax revenues as provided by the Law;

6° information officer: a person appointed or designated by a public or private organ in charge of providing information and to facilitate those who need it.

CHAPTER II: RIGHT TO INFORMATION

Article 3: Access to information

Every person has the right of access to information in possession of a public organ and some private bodies.

The right of access to information includes the following:

1° assessing activities, documents or records;

2° taking notes, documents, extracts or copies of official documents or records;

3° taking documents or extracts of notified copies;

4° obtaining information stored in any electronic form or through print-outs copies of information stored in a computer or in any other device.

Article 4: Confidential information

Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 3 of this Law, information withheld by a public organ or private body to which this Law applies shall not be published when it may:

1° destabilize national security;

2° impede the enforcement of Law or justice;

3° involve interference in the privacy of an individual when it is not of public interest;

4° violate the legitimate protection of trade secrets or other intellectual property rights protected by the Law;

5° obstruct actual or contemplated legal proceedings against the management of public organ.

If the request for information relates to record containing information in two (2) parts one part being not allowed to be published and the other part contains information that can be published as provided by this Law, the requesting person shall be provided with information allowed to be published.

Article 5: Information that may destabilize national security

Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 4 of this Law, the Minister, in consultation with the concerned organs, shall issue an Order determining which information could destabilize national security.

Article 6: Public interest in disclosure of information

A public organ or a private body to which this Law applies shall disclose information where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest of not disclosing such information.

In considering what constitutes the public interest, particular emphasis shall be put on the following:

1° to promote in public and private organs to which this Law applies the culture of informing the public about their activities;

2° to ensure that the expenditure of public funds is subject to effective management and oversight;

3° to promote founded public debate;

4° to keep the public regularly and adequately informed about the existence of any danger to public health or safety or to the environment;

5° to ensure that any public authority with regulatory mission properly discharges its functions.

Article 7: Disclosure of vital information to the public

Every public and private organ to which this Law applies shall proactively disclose the vital information to the public. A Ministerial Order shall determine in details the information to be disclosed.

CHAPTER III: REQUEST AND OBTAINING INFORMATION

Article 8: Information officers in public organs

A public organ shall appoint or designate an information officer for that organ and its branch, if there is any, to enable it to provide information to persons requesting for it in accordance with this Law.

If the officer in charge of information is absent, the organ or its branch shall designate someone a substitute.

Article 9: Request for information

Information shall be requested by an individual or a group of persons in any of the official languages provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda verbally, in writing, by telephone, internet or any other means of communication without prejudice to the provisions of this Law.

The person applying for information shall determine the means in which he/she wants to obtain information. However, if the means chosen for obtaining the information requested exceeds the capacity of the requested organ, the applicant shall bear the cost.

Article 10: Fees required to provide information

The provision of information is an obligation without fee.

However, depending on the means for providing the information, charges for making copies or sending information may be charged to the applicant.

A Ministerial Order shall determine the procedure thereof.

Article 11: Examining an application for information

The information officer, to whom the information is requested, shall take decision according to priorities.

When the request of information is not accepted, explanations based on the Law shall be provided.

A Ministerial Order shall determine the procedure thereof.

Article 12: Correction of personal information

Upon the request by the concerned person or his/her authorized representative, a public or private body shall, at its own expense, correct any personal information held by it relating to the applicant which is inaccurate, incomplete or irrelevant.

A person requesting for the correction of the information shall write to the head of the public or private organ that has the information.

However, in case of emergency, a person requesting for correction may do so verbally.

CHAPTER IV: COMPLIANCE WITH THIS LAW BY PRIVATE ORGANS

Article 13: Private organs to which this Law applies

Private organs to which this Law applies are those whose activities are in connection with public interest, human rights and freedoms.

A Ministerial Order shall determine private organs to which this Law applies.

Article 14: Access to information in a private organ to which this Law does not apply

Any interested person may request a competent court to order that a private organ to which this Law does not apply provides some information required in the interest to preserve the life or liberty of persons.

Article 15: Information officers in private organs

A private organ shall appoint or designate an information officer for that organ and its branch, if there is any, to enable it to provide information to persons requesting for it in accordance with this Law.

If the officer in charge of information is absent, the organ or its branch shall designate a substitute.

CHAPTER V: MISCELLANEOUS AND FINAL PROVISIONS

Article 16: Protection of a person who disclosed information

Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 4 of this Law, no person shall be punished as a result of having made a disclosure of information obtained when people who were supposed to disclose failed to do so within the time limits provided for by the Law, if the person believes on reasonable grounds that the information is accurate and if its disclosure is in the public interest.

Article 17: Enforcement of this Law

The Office of the Ombudsman shall particularly monitor the enforcement of this Law.

Article 18: Drafting, consideration and adoption of this Law

This Law was drafted in English, considered and adopted in Kinyarwanda.

Article 19: Repealing provision

All prior legal provisions contrary to this Law are hereby repealed.

Article 20: Commencement

This Law shall come into force on the date of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.

Kigali, on 08/02/2013

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags:

Filed under: What's New