Sierra Leone Again Delays Passing FOI Bill

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The Government of Sierra Leone has again delayed action on the passage  of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill despite repeated assurances by President Ernest Bai Koroma who gave the latest of such assurance on July 5, 2013.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone

According to the Secretary to Cabinet, Ernest Surrur, the delay was as a result of “poor records management”. Surrur stated that the government needs to put in place a proper mechanism that will ensure proper records management to include filing and storage in order to implement the FOI mechanisms effectively.

Responding to the situation in Sierra Leone, the Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda, Mr. Edetaen Ojo disagreed with the statement of the Secretary to Cabinet. He said: “This has been their standard strategy over the last 10 years, perhaps one of the reasons their records are in such shambles is because they do not have a Freedom of Information Act”

Mr. Ojo further queried the delay saying that the government’s hesitation on the FOI Legislation is unnecessary. He said: “if the government has sincere intentions, nothing stops it from going ahead to pass the Bill while putting a commencement date which gives reasonable time to address the problem of record management.”

The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication in Sierra Leone, Mr. Theo Nicol had on May 13, 2013, given a favorable message about the passage of a FOI bill, which advocates have been pushing for more than eight years.

This apparent change on passing the FOI Law comes against a backdrop of perceived hostility by the Koroma administration to the media.