Parliament’s Forum on Media rekindles Access to Information Debate
The Parliamentary Forum on Media has tasked government, to avail to Parliament, reports on Access to Information in the last 12 years.
The Forum today tabled a Statement on the floor to compel government ministries, departments and agencies to furnish the House with the reports in conformity to the Section 43 of the Access to Information Act, 2005.
The Acts stipulates that “each Minister shall submit an annual report to Parliament on requests for access to records or information made to public bodies under his or her ministry in relation to the relevant year, and shall indicate whether access was given or not and if access was not given, state reasons for the denial.”
Under the same section, Clause prescribes that “for avoidance of doubt, the annual report referred to in subsection (1) may be included in the annual policy statement of the Ministry.”
Mr Paul Amori, the Forum Chairperson said that government has never obliged to the provisions of the law.
“Bearing in mind that press freedom is a bed-rock of not only democracy but also transparency and accountability…the House should re-assert the need to protect the freedom of expression and that of the media in line with chapter four of our constitution,” he said.
Mr Amoru also said that this failure by government to heed to the quest of the Act, contravenes the Constitution under Article 41, which states that, “every citizen has a right of access to information and records in the possession of the State or any public body, 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.”
However, section 3 of the Access to Information Act slaps a red-tape on cabinet records and those of its committees; records of court proceedings before conclusion; and access to personal health records.
The Forum also wants parliament to protect journalists who face intimidation from government officers while looking for information.
Mr Amoru said that with the increased cases of Police brutality highlighted in human rights reports, it is incumbent on the House to safe guard the constitutional provisions envisaged in “Chapter Four of our constitution, particularly Articles; 20, 27, 29 and 41 of the Constitution.”
The 2016 Annual Index Report on Freedom of Expression in Uganda, ranked police in the top most position of brutalizing journalists, followed by the army and Internal Security organs.