The lengthy battle of having an Access to information Law enacted is expected to conclude with the law being enacted this year, revealed the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
“We are very optimistic that the law will be enacted this year and citizens will finally have vital tools to uncover facts, fight corruption and hold officials and institutions accountable,” said Phenyo Butale, National Director of MISA.
Butale added: “Traditionally, public information has been shrouded in obscurity; now we want to make people understand that they have a right to this information, and to have a practical law to everyday reality in society.
“Elsewhere on the continent, there are positive signals that governments are embracing principles of freer access to information but levels of access to information in our country are still bad,” said Butale.
Botswana is one of the countries that do not have a stipulated law on access to information; there is hardly any law in Botswana which permits access to official information, even where a law recognizes that members of the public have a role to play in achieving the purpose of that law.
Butale said the adoption of the access to public information law would constitute a major cornerstone, in guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms, specifically the right to freedom of expression in the country.
“Journalists are struggling everyday to execute their duties with the outdated regulations on access to information which are enforced in the country, anything can be classified,” he said.
He added that it is in the interest of the public and the media in particular that the parliament takes necessary steps to adopt the progressive Law on Access to Public Information.
Further, Butale shared his discomfort and worry over Botswana Communications Regulations Authority bill.
“We were moving in the right direction, but this bill is a regression,” he said. “Government should pull back this bill and proper consultation should be done; MISA is willing to take the lead in the consultation process and ensure that it is properly implemented to improve transparency and the free flow of information in the country.”