Govt is too secretive – Walters

Access to information is crucial

18 September 2019 | Government

JEMIMA BEUKES



Ombudsman John Walters believes the coming access to information law will be of cardinal importance, because it will compel government officials to release what should be public information.

“My goodness, do you know how secretive our public administration is? It is so secret, when you ask for information you cannot get it. It is either lost or it is not available,” he said yesterday.

The Access to Information Bill is set to find its way to parliament soon, after it was signed off last week.

It is now with the legal drafters, deputy information minister Engel Nawatiseb confirmed yesterday.

Nawatiseb told Namibian Sun the legal drafters must now consider the amendments and changes that were made through the Cabinet Committee on Legislation.

He said some of these changes and amendments have been effected and were reviewed by the information ministry.

“From there it will follow the legal process going to the attorney-general, the ministry of justice and then parliament,” he said.

Nawatiseb said the Bill promotes self-regulation and does not even make provision for punitive measures for those contravening it.

“There is also no way that government would want to regulate social media. You cannot use these social media platforms or information to target individuals or leaders. We leave it to you to self-regulate yourself,” he said.

He also pointed out there are a number of unaccredited media practitioners, which will make regulation time-consuming.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) director-general Paulus Noa said they will benefit greatly once the information legislation is enacted.

“By allowing the media to gain access, the ACC can take up that information and conduct an investigation. If there is evidence then that can be forwarded to the prosecuting authority,” he said.

Social commentator Frederico Links said the information law will minimise the damage of fake news and speculation, because citizens will have the information to debunk this.

He added that access to information is beneficial for development and education.

“The Bill would also compel authorities to produce information for blind or deaf Namibians. Over 100 000 Namibians live with disabilities. There are various benefits, depending on the angle you are approaching,” Links added.

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