Parliament, Mushelenga clash over information bill

The Access to Information bill, which has been in the works since 2012, is expected to enhance the work of journalists and promote transparency and democracy.

30 April 2021 | Local News

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

A proposed bill to regulate access to information in the country has pitted information minister Peya Mushelenga and the secretariat of the National Assembly against each other.

The low-key fight between Mushelenga and the secretariat exists at a time when Namibia, together with the rest of the world, will commemorate the Windhoek Declaration on World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on 3 May.

The Access to Information (ATI) bill, which was tabled on 17 June 2020, is expected to enhance the work of journalists and promote transparency as well as democracy, amongst other things.

The bill has been in the pipeline since July 2012 after it was compiled by civil society and media organisations in the country.

It has since been with the parliamentary ICT standing committee for fine-tuning, but has yet to move from there since the committee did not exist at the time of referral and was elected only months later.

Mushelenga yesterday said he was told to resubmit the bill because of the committee dilemma, adding that he declined the instruction because it was not legal advice from the Attorney General’s office.

“You must speak to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi. They were telling the Speaker that the bill must be resubmitted because the bill was referred to a committee and the committee was elected only much later. “Speak to the Speaker and tell him that Mushelenga is still waiting for you to inform him about your consultations with the Attorney-General,” he said.

Back with ministry

Meanwhile, Joyce Nakuta, the director of committee services at the National Assembly, yesterday confirmed that Mushelenga was requested to resubmit the bill, adding that “the bill is back with the ministry”.

Social commentator Graham Hopwood yesterday said government should not be blamed for the delay because the minister tabled the bill last year already.

He added that civic society organisations under the Action Coalition banner have been unable to secure an audience with Katjavivi to discuss the delays.

Hopwood said his biggest worry is that - even when passed - it will take years to get the office of the information commissioner up and running without the required political will.

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