By Amin Kef-Ranger
The Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI), on the 2nd June 2021, paid courtesy calls to the Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rahman Swarray and later in the day to the Right to Access of Information Commission.
The purpose of the meetings was to get first-hand information on the draft Right to Access Information Regulation status that is yet to be legislated since Sierra Leone passed the parent law in 2013.
Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, Executive Director of SDI, in his opening statement, thanked the Ministry of Information for providing the leadership in ensuring the information ecosystem is sanitized and went on to state that the passage of the RAI Regulation is a low hanging fruit that must be plucked immediately.
He furthered by reminding the Minister that this Government campaigned during the 2018 election on the tickets of transparency and accountability.
Therefore, he maintained, the expectations are that the Ministry of Information and Commission and Right to Access Commission should work with Civil Society for the promulgation of the Regulation, which will enhance the effective implementation of the Right to Access Information.
He said, “we are very concerned and we want to encourage the Ministry to work with CSOs to cross the final line. We are incredibly excited to have this conversation to ensure that the low hanging fruit will be plucked with ease.”
In his concluding statement, Saffa-Abdulai reiterated that the importance of the Regulation, if passed, would allow for the effective implementation of the Right to Access Information Law. Without the Regulation, the implementation of the law will be hindered and legally impossible, he affirmed.
In his response, the Minister acknowledged SDI’s role over the years on the Right to Access Information and specifically pointed out the individual role Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai played.
But, he said, “if there is one thing that you would be remembered for in this country is your role in the passage of the Right to Information Law and pro-bono services provided for journalists who come in conflict with the then criminal and seditious libel laws and sustained advocacy on the repeal of Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act.”
The Minister concluded that, “we are committed and very interested in ensuring that the Regulation is passed soonest and will therefore request that SDI, the Commission and the Ministry meet soonest for a proper presentation on the said Regulation.”
In another session, SDI met with the Right to Access Information Commission’s Chairperson, Dr. Seaga Shaw, who disclosed that since October 2019, in a stakeholders and technical meeting, the Commission worked on the Regulation and submitted it to the Ministry of Information and Communication.
He stated that several comments have been reviewed and included in the final draft.
Dr. Seaga Shaw said, “this is the right time for your visit. We appreciate the leadership provided by civil society over the years and we are looking forward to having this Regulation passed and implemented.”
Saffa-Abdulai informed the Chairperson that civil society in 2015 drafted and presented the Regulation to his predecessor saying it is now time to pass the Regulation.
(C) The Calabash Newspaper