Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Government passes Access to Information Act regulations

Kampala, 3rd/June/2011; the much awaited Access to Information Act (ATIA) regulations have finally been passed by government.
The regulations are meant to operationalize Access to Information Act passed by the parliament of Uganda six years ago.
Although the regulations indicate that they were signed by the former minister of information Princess Rwabwoni Kabakumba Matsiko on 10th/ March/2011 and published in the gazette late April 2011, this development has remained a secret.
Article 41 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda states that “every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the state or any other organ or agency of the state except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the state or interfere with the right to the privacy of any other person”
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) has learnt that accessing information in public offices is likely to remain a challenge since the regulations have not yet been availed to the general public as well as government departments which are supposed to process information requests despite rumors of signing them.
Sources indicate that the regulations were leaked to Civil Society Organisations in Uganda late last month (June) that have been circulating them to different players including members of the public.
“We applaud government for signing and gazette the regulations to facilitate the full enjoyment of the right to access information. Although the law has its own loopholes but we are optimistic that it will go an extra mile to reduce on the number of journalists in Uganda who have been accessing information from back door” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala
He said the practice had resulted into compromising the security of journalists who are on charges ranging from forgery, and others being kidnapped.
The regulations have come at a time when Uganda is hosting the continental body Africa Freedom of Information (AFIC) and also Civil Society Organisations have formed a coalition named Coalition on Access to Information (COFI) housed at Human Rights Network –Uganda (HURINET) to popularize the law and promote transparency and openness in government.
As part of popularizing the ATIA, HURINET has organized a Training of Trainers (TOT) for 30 people from CSOs scattered in all regions of Uganda. The TOT was intended to create resourceful people in ATIA to play a facilitative role.
“We are trying to create a pool of experts so that members of CSOs and the public make use of them to access information” said HURINET Advocacy, and Information officer Patrick Tumwine.
HURINET has put in place a litigation fund to respond to information denial.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627
E-mail: news@hrnjuganda.org
Website: www.hrnjuganda.org
BLOG: http://hrnjuganda.blogpost.com

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