The Deputy Minister of information and Communications Theo Nicol, has urged journalists to make use of the Right to Access information Act and request for relevant information from public institutions so that they will not dwell on publishing misleading information. He said the Government is willing to open its books because it has nothing to hide and that is the more reason why it has passed the right to access information law. The deputy Minister made these statements at the usual press conference of the Ministry of Information and Communications on Thursday October 29, 2015.
The Executive Secretary of the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) Edward Kwame Yankson elaborated on the progress the Commission has been making whilst addressing pressmen at the conference room of the Ministry of Information and Communications
He noted that a Chairman and four Commissioners and an Executive Secretary have been appointed by the President to run the Commission to ensure that the Commission reflect the purpose for which it was established.
He informed his audience that the Commission has also drafted the RAI regulations which will provide a clear guide on how to go about the process of requesting for information. Whilst encouraging members of the Forth Estate to make full use of the RAI Act and request for relevant information from Public Authorities, Mr. Yankson encouraged his audience to also copy the Commission whenever they make a request in order to keep the Commission fully informed.
He said in spite of the calls the media has made for the need for a right to access information law, no journalist has yet made a single request since the enactment of the law in 2013. He noted that only 15 requests have been made so far saying that these requests are made by Civil Society activists and lawyers.
The Executive Secretary stated that the Commission has been working in close collaboration with the Open Government Initiative (OGI) and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to create an open data portal which has already been launched and will be adequately monitored by the Commission.
In an attempt to ensuring that information uploaded on the portal is accurate, the Executive Secretary said they have established an Open data Council that will ensure that information posted on the Open Data Portal is accurate. He further stated that the Commissioners and the Chairman of the Commission has been receiving training from the World Bank through video conferencing once every month in a bid to capacitate them for an effective implementation of the work of the Commission.
He said the Commission will embark on an intensive sensitization drive across the country to educate the public and Ministries, Departments and Agencies about the relevance of the right to access information and the need for the public to request for information in order to be well informed.
The Director General of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) Gbanabom Elvis Hallowell also stated at the press conference that SLBC has been designing programmes that enhance good citizenship and robust and effective civil societies. He said they have Current Affairs Programmes and other programmes that will bolster creative talents by broadcasting educative programmes. He said they have also ensured that their services target all the Sierra Leonean cultures across that country. The Director General noted that one of their major challenges is the fact that they have still not gone digital, but assured the press that they are seriously working on that.
Updating the press on the activities of the Directorate of information, the Senior Information Officer Marian Samu noted that the Directorate of information is responsible for providing the public with accurate and timely information from government. She said the Directorate has posted Information Officers in MDAs who perform the function of informing the public about government activities. She further stated that the Directorate has been working on implementing the National Communication Strategy and in that regard has established resource centers in the four regions.