TANZANIA INTRODUCTION The development of legislation to facilitate access to information (ATI) is an indispensable requirement for modernising the public sector and for effective governance, this is especially true at this point in time when governments worldwide are moving towards openness and transparency. The global trend is shifting towards openness, supported by statements aimed at ensuring universal and equitable access to information as a basic human right. Internal and external pressures from media organisations and institutions, civil society, local and international press associations, as well as regional and international organisations, have heavily influenced the increasing approval and adoption of ATI legislation. The number of countries with national ATI laws has increased rapidly, with 19 in 1995 to over 100 nations adopting a national ATI law around the world today. The theme of UNESCO’s 2016 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) celebration was “Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms- This Is Your Right!” – which further highlighted the increasing scope of stakeholders’ influence. Under the banner of the above-mentioned theme, the 2016 commemoration of WPFD in Tanzania was used as an opportunity to reflect on the state of access to information in the country, especially with respect to media freedom. The Tanzanian government, as represented by Hon. Nape Nnauye, Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, emphasised that the Fifth Phase Government exists to ensure that all policies and strategies promoting media freedom are improved through mutual discussion with all stakeholders. He stated that all laws which could potentially have a negative influence on freedom of expression and access to information (such as the Cyber Crime Act and the Statistics Act), will be reviewed in collaboration with stakeholders. He stressed that the Media Services Bill, which is directly under his Ministry, will not be tabled before Parliament until there is an agreement with stakeholders on its content. Time will tell whether this statement will be followed through with action, or whether it was merely a politically-calculated statement; this was the very same Minister who was vehemently opposed by free expression supporters for his move to ban live broadcasts of Parliament sessions. During the key note address at the same event, Chief Justice, Hon. Mohamed Chande Othman said that one of the key focus areas of the judiciary of Tanzania has been to further promote human rights. Speaking on his behalf, Justice Robert Makaramba, the judge in charge of Mwanza High Court, said the judiciary clearly understood that the lack of access to information is entrenching poverty in Tanzania. Therefore, during the implementation of the future Right to Information Bill there will be a need for deep reflection on strategies, challenges and lessons learnt in the past. In recognition of this fact, the judiciary is working alongside MISA Tanzania to train its staff on how vital and necessary it is to promote access to information for the public’s benefit. Stakeholders, under the umbrella of the Coalition of Right to Information (CORI), have been working tirelessly with the Government of Tanzania and Parliament to establish a progressive access to information law in Tanzania. The overall objective is to mitigate corruption and provide the public with the ability to request and receive documents and other public information held by all government and publicly-funded agencies. After several ATI bills were rejected between 2013 - 2015, the following year, in June 2016, a new bill, the Right to Information Bill, was tabled in Parliament for its first reading. Its second reading is scheduled for September this year, after a preliminary meeting in August where stakeholders will have the chance to share their final views on the Bill. Although some stakeholders agree it is an improvement from the previous version, critics believe there is still a lot to be changed, discussed and deliberated upon before it is passed into law. CORI members went through the Bill and identified areas to be improved upon. Some of these issues include costs introduced for anyone requesting information. CORI’s recommendation is that public information should be given free of charge. Equally, the tabled Bill discriminates against people who are not citizens of the United Republic of Tanzania from requesting information. It is CORI’s suggestion that every person should have the right to access to information as stipulated in the Tanzanian Constitution. The Bill is sought to apply to mainland Tanzania only, and it has therefore been proposed to extend the application of the law to cover the Zanzibar archipelago as well. The Bill further suggests a long list of information which is exempted from public access. It is the stakeholders’ proposal that exemptions should be strictly limited to issues of national security, interference of court procedures, and those of research and discovery. The Bill introduces criminal charges for people who distort the information obtained, as well as for information holders who disclose exempt information. It is recommended that such offences should not be seen as criminal offences but, in the latter case for instance, as professional misconduct. It is the opinion of the stakeholders that government officials responsible for handling information should be held accountable only when they deny access to information without reasonable justification. Stakeholders also proposed creating a Commission for Information which will be responsible for handling all the information from Government and private institutions. The Commission will be vested with the power to ensure that all necessary information is recorded and kept in the Commission for public access.