Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Right to information: Three-day deadline set for disclosure of data

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Requested information shall be released within 24 hours if it concerns the life or liberty of a person, regardless of the requester.


All public institutions as well as private entities which are bound by the Access to Information Law will have a maximum of two days to provide information that’s being sought by a journalist and three days in case of an ordinary citizen (from the date of submission of request) once a new ministerial order is published in the Official Gazette.


The legal instrument is one of the five ministerial orders that were approved by the Cabinet two weeks ago, which seek to complement the Access to Information Law (AIL). The law came into force last year, making Rwanda one of the few African countries with such legislation.


The ministerial orders are expected to be gazzetted next month, according to officials at the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB).


But the requested information shall be released within 24 hours if it concerns the life or liberty of a person, regardless of the requester.


But where the request for information is not about the life or liberty of a person, information officers can seek extension of the period to 14 days through their own request to the Office of the Ombudsman.


Restricted information


Meanwhile, the government has determined that information that could destabilise national security will not be disclosed to journalists and citizens.


Information officers will thus have the right and obligation to protect from the public such information as plans and details of military arsenal and intelligence operations, state secrets related to administrative or criminal investigations, classified tenders and confidentialities in government relations with other countries, among other sensitive details.


The ministerial orders also give leaders of private organisations bound by the AIL the right to withhold or release certain information sought by the general public and journalists.


Concerned private entities


Private firms which deal with matters of general public interest, human rights and freedom of people in the country are all obliged to release unrestricted information to the general public and journalists in particular.


Companies providing services such as telecommunication, transport, healthcare and medicine, education, security, social security, production and commercialisation of food and drinks and financial firms are all bound by Access to Information Law.


Political and religious organisations as well as local and international Non-Governmental Organisations are also obliged to release unrestricted information to the public.


The right of citizens to seek information on governance and other issues of concern to them is meant to create a policy responsive society, according to analysts.


The law seeks to promote transparency and protect civil rights.


“The legislation will help our country to operate in a more transparent way. It will also help to provide better services to citizens,” said Aimable Semukanya, a legal advisor at RGB.



Right to information: Three-day deadline set for disclosure of data

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