19 May 2015

Botswana Rejects Foi Bill

The Botswana Government has again rejected the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill to preserve the secrets and security of the nation.

The Bill, which was recently tabled by Gaborone Central legislator Dumelang Saleshando, was rejected by Parliament led by Members of Parliament (MPs) of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

"We have secrets that we intend to keep," the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi, was quoted as saying.

Earlier, BDP Facebook Site stated that "THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Bill as proposed by Hon Saleshando would not be acceptable to public governance. This is our view and part of the basis for its rejection and besides, government was already coming up with a law to regulate and clarify the route to access public records. We agree that there should be a law regulating access to public records but not in the format or extent sought by the opposition."

The Bill was first rejected by Government in 2012 at which time the government's objections were listed in a 46-point document by Jeff Ramsay, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Government Communications Office of the President.

"46. Notwithstanding its undoubted good intentions, the Bill, as drafted, could thus serve to undermine, rather than advance, good governance in our country."

However, according to Botswana Gazette of May 14, 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana Chapter National Director, Buyani Zongwani said that Parliament of Botswana made a huge mistake by rejecting the Freedom of Information Bill because democracy would never triumph where people could not t access information easily.

"Freedom of information is vital in a modern society like ours, so that information is made available to people; not only journalists but everyone who seeks information, whether in a government or private department," Zongwani said during a MISA workshop held in Francistown recently.

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