More access to information now guaranteed

VICTORIA – The SEYCHELLES National Assembly has approved a bill giving people the right to access information held by public bodies.

Vice President VINCENT MERITON has tabled the proposed law in Parliament, saying government officials should become more open and accountable to the population.

He says SEYCHELLOIS have had comparatively easy access to information but there have still been talks about people having not been able to exercise the right easily.

SEYCHELLES News Agency says when President DANNY FAURE signs the Bill into law, it will apply to institutions performing government functions, bodies such as parastatals, and non-governmental groups financed directly by the State.

It quotes a journalist from the TODAY newspaper as saying she has observed accessing information has become easier for independent media houses in the past THREE years.

SASHA-LEE MARIVEL says much will depend on the information officers, as they will be the people mandated to be the bridge between the information and the public or journalists.

She says the Bill is useful if journalists are willing to put in the research and work behind the data, because information is useless if it is not studied, contextualised, and given meaning.

MARIVEL says real journalism is about ethics, and information for the sake of information alone is not good enough. Reporters need to put it together in a way that will benefit the reader, not some political agenda or personal mileage.

Meanwhile, Vice President MERITON says although the Bill provides for disclosure of information from relevant authorities, it also exempts some classes of information from disclosure.

He says the exemptions include information that might comprise State security, endanger the life and safety of an individual or cause damage to the national economic model.

Vice President MERITON says the new law also aims to counter corruption and malpractices by facilitating transparency, good governance, and accountability.

Public bodies will have to ensure access to their data by revealing information within 30 days of it being generated, provide employee directories yearly, travel and hospitality expenses, budget, revenue and expenditures, as well as details of processes and procedures.

SEYCHELLES Government offices will also report to the Information Commission to be created under the Access to Information Act./Sabanews/cam

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