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ARTICLE 19 recommends improvements to draft information law

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 28 May 2009 - ARTICLE 19 has prepared a note on the draft Sierra Leonean Right to Access Information Bill 2008, prepared through a collaborative effort of local NGOs and the authorities. The draft Bill is, for the most part, a progressive piece of legislation which draws on better international and comparative practice. At the same time, the regime of exceptions in the draft is overbroad and fails to provide for disclosure in the overall public interest.

ARTICLE 19 very much welcomes moves in Sierra Leone to adopt a law recognising the right to access information held by public authorities. This is a key piece of democratic legislation, as reflected in the more than 80 right to information laws which have been adopted by countries around the world.

The draft Bill is generally in line with international standards and better international practice. At the same time, there are still areas where it could be further improved. Some of ARTICLE 19's key recommendations are:

- The law should include a minimum list of proactive publication obligations.

- More detailed fee rules should be set out in the primary legislation.

- The right to information law should override secrecy laws in case of conflict.

- The minister should not have the power to issue certificates rendering information secret on national security grounds.

- The scope of some exceptions should be narrowed, while other exceptions, including in favour of privacy, should be added.

- A rule mandating disclosure in the overall public interest should be added.

ARTICLE 19 encourages civil society and the authorities to continue to work towards the adoption of a strong right to information law for Sierra Leone. We would be happy to provide any assistance we can in this effort.

ARTICLE 19's Submission in English

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