Access to Information Crucial – MISA

| May 13, 2015

Proactive disclosure, a practice where public bodies avail their records to the public without the need for specific requests from the public is an integral part of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The national director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Botswana (MISA), Mr Buyani Zongwani said this during a freedom of information workshop in Francistown last week.

Mr Zongwane explained that MISA Botswana was lobbying for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act whose expectation is that members of the public should be able to request for, and be provided with information held by government, public enterprises and private companies if delivery of such information is in the public interest.

Proactive disclosure of information, said Mr Zongwani, served the role of achieving the realisation of an informed citizenry which can hold public officials to account.

This, he highlighted, would assist in the national commitment of ensuring an open government.

He therefore, urged public bodies to take the necessary steps to make information public without waiting for specific requests and to use social media platforms to inform citizens about what is known and done by their governments.

The MISA national director observed that not all information from public bodies could be disclosed, noting that it might be appropriate for agencies to withhold information if it falls within the FOIA exemption.

On other issues, he asserted that public bodies should also have up to date information resource centres.

The enactment of the freedom of information act, according to Mr Zongwani would make it easier for the media to access information when they request it.

MISA Botswana, he said has decided to hold workshops with stakeholders who hold information on behalf of the public as part of lobbying.

“There is need to create a demanding society that knows that it has the right to information on how they are governed,” he maintained.

He also mentioned that they have engaged members of parliament on the issue .

Mr Zongwani also added that having an open government was aantageous as it resulted in citizens who trusted it as it would have integrity in their eyes.

He also touched on the issue of data protection act which gives individuals the right to know what information is held about them, and provides a framework to ensure that personal information is handled properly.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: News

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