By Devota Mwachang’a
Tanzanian stakeholders of Right to Information call on the government to gazette the legislation of Access to Information Act (2016) which has been passed one year ago in order to enable people making use of it.
The coalition said in the run up to the International Day for Universal Access to Information (September 28, this year), they call on the government to begin a process to Prepare the Consultative so the regulations can be finalized as soon as possible.
Speaking at the news conference organised by coalition for the Right to Information in collaboration with Twaweza in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, Media Council for Tanzania (MCT) Executive Secretary Kajubi Mukajanga said: "We all know that information is power. The free flow of news and information is a prerequisite for Citizens to forge a strong and Democratic Society in Which they have a say in their destiny.”
He said the media is an important vehicle in making this happen and the Government has the obligation to put into place the requisite legal and policy framework towards this end.
"Although it the Access to information Act, 2016 was passed a year ago, nothing much has been done to it and ensure that operationalize Citizens have free and fast access to information from the government and its agencies,” he said.
Mukajanga added: “It is high time this law That starts being used, in particular by putting into place the necessary regulations through a Consultative process. Otherwise we might conclude That the law is merely a smokescreen.”
Executive Director of Twaweza, Aidan Eyakuze said Access to information is the foundation of a principled, Democratic and prosperous society. The passage of the Access to Information Act was one of the highlights of 2016 for civil society, media and Citizens. We urge the government to follow Through on this important commitment it has made to openness and transparency by the commencement gazetting of the law and developing regulations. We also invite Citizens to start the original law to try to access information. "
Executive Director of Twaweza, Aidan Eyakuze
For her part, Dr Helen Kijo-Bisimba, Executive Director of Legal and Human Rights Center noted that "Every citizen and non-citizen has right to access Government's information. Any shouldn’t accountable and transparent government guarantee accessibility of information to its people. In 2016 Tanzania passed the law on access to information but the law itself has left behind a lot of irregularities which infringes the right to information.”
Dr Helen Kijo-Bisimba, Executive Director of Legal and Human Rights Center (LHCR)
She said it is for that reason they call upon the government to make revision and address the inconsistencies regarding right to information act before the law is put into effect.
“Irregularities like length of time for responding to information request, limited access to information to Tanzanian Citizens only, narrow scope of information required to be published, vague EXCEPTIONS to disclosure of information, information access fees and many others are to be addressed,” said Kijo Bisimba.
Gasirigwa Nsengiyumva, National Director of MISA-TAN said "The only way the country can expect responsible citizenship and meaningful participation in development by far is by making sure the public is well informed. Always make informed citizenry Informed Decisions. "
Currently, citizens are unlikely to be able to access government information. In January / February of 2016, researchers posed as ordinary citizens and visited 131 government offices in 26 districts to seek specific types of information. The data collected are nationally representative. they find that these researchers successfully acquired the information they were looking for in 1 out of 3 cases (33%).
This means that two out of three times, when a citizen requests information from a government office, they will not receive that information. Although these data were collected before the passage of the Access to Information Act, given the slow pace of implementation there is no reason to suppose that results have changed significantly.
Based on past research, conducted by Twaweza, they would further like to draw attention to the following 84% of citizens supported the passage of the Access to Information Act in Parliament before it became law, showing that citizens want to access government information.
77% of citizens believe that ordinary citizens should have access to information held by government.
80% of citizens believe that corruption and other wrongdoing would be reduced if citizens had more access to information.
42% of citizens would be interested in having more information from government about different sectors and services.