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.

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