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Government pledges to implement freedom of information bill

(MISA/IFEX) – 24 November 2011 – The Zambian government announced its commitment not only to enact the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill but also to implement it. This was said during a conference on freedom of information which was organized by World Bank Zambia.

Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism Given Lubinda said that in its commitment to this process, the government would, among other things, constitute a committee of stakeholders including public officials, experts and civil society representatives to participate and guide the development of this legislation.

Lubinda noted that once the FOI law is enacted and implemented, it will contribute greatly in changing the culture of secrecy that characterizes Zambian public institutions, he said this will contribute to transparency, democracy and national development.

The minister, however, urged civil society organizations and the members of the public to actively participate in the FOI enactment and implementation process, adding that the FOI law is not only for the media, but every Zambian.

World Bank Director for Zambia Kundhavi Kadiresan said it is the right time for Zambia to enact the bill because information help members of the public to hold those in power accountable, adding that transparency and access to information are at the very heart of both democracy and development.

"Often those with information don't like to share it because it is power, and if it is given to average citizens, it will give them power to hold those in power to account," she said.

Meanwhile, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia chairperson Daniel Sikazwe described the government's FOI pronouncements as the best way to go, and urged the Government to expedite the process.

Sikazwe said people of Zambia have waited for this law for a long time and noted that its enactment will create an enabling environment for transparency, accountability and general democracy to flourish.

The chairperson implored the government to actualize what he referred to as 'positive major pronouncements', adding that the FOI bill once enacted into law will not only benefit those in the media fraternity, but all Zambians as it will give them an opportunity to access information.

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