NAMIBIA’S information minister Peya Mushelenga has tabled the country’s long-awaited access to information bill in the National Assembly, saying it is a powerful tool to fight corruption.

Speaking in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Mushelenga said with this bill, Namibia will take its rightful place as a beacon of press freedom, an independent and pluralistic press, not only in Africa but also in the world at large.

“We should therefore regard freedom of information as a legal and enforceable right. It should however be noted that making the law work in practice is a two-way responsibility,” he said.

The government must provide resources to create a system that will permit information requests to be proficiently responded to, while civil society organisations must generate requests in accordance with the law, the minister added.

According to him, on its own, the information law is not a panacea but with political will, it can lay the foundation to build a fair, modern and successful society.

The bill among other things seeks to establish an independent administrative body with a range of statutory functions to ensure proper implementation of access to information legislation.

The body would comprise of an information commissioner and a deputy commissioner who would be responsible for promoting, monitoring and protecting of the right of access to information.

This body will have the power to hear appeals against refusal by a public body to provide information along with all necessary powers to effectively exercise this role.

“This includes power to mediate disputes, to compel evidence and to review, in camera if necessary, the information which is the subject of the request, to order the disclosure of information, and where appropriate to impose penalties,” the minister said.

The bill seeks to give the information commissioner powers to investigate any appeal, to compel witnesses to provide any information or record for its consideration in camera, where necessary and justified.

Download the Bill here.

* Courtesy of The Namibian newspaper