TANZANIA INTRODUCTION The history of access to information in this country can be traced back to pre-colonial times. Dr Ayub Rioba, in his 2008 thesis entitled ‘Media in Tanzania’s Transition to Multiparty Democracy: An Assessment of Policy and Ethical Issues’, says that in pre-colonial times access to information was mainly organised through local and traditional means. According to Dr Rioba, information passed from one generation to another by elders through storytelling and drum beating. Furthermore, information such as early warnings on invasions, weddings, death or birth announcements etc. was shared through word of mouth. Elders and other members of the community would ‘horn-foot’ from the tallest trees or top of the mountains to spread information or pass on the message. He mentions that drama, theatre, and music played a significant and unifying role in keeping the entire community informed of crucial events, and at the same time passing on the legacy from one generation to another. The reason why Dr Rioba wrote this history was to show how our ancestors recognised the importance of access to information. Events such as hunger and famine would be communicated early and thus communities would know how to avert it or how to deal with it. It was crucial for the development of those communities. Access to information is just as important today. Access to information and the ability to report and comment on issues of local interest are recognised as critical enablers for empowerment of the poor and social accountability. More open information flows and a greater range of communication channels are needed to meet the information needs of the poor and to advance propoor perspectives in policy dialogue. Despite its Constitutional mandate, the government often does not inform the public about decisions and projects that could potentially be of benefit to them. This can be deliberate, due to the ignorance of information holders, or because sometimes authorities don’t consider how important the information is for the intended recipients. When the public does learn of such acts through unofficial channels, enquiries into the withholding of information often fall on deaf ears. As a result, the public is often unaware of the potential hazards or benefits of many government decisions and projects. Several international initiatives have stated categorically why access to information should be clearly provided for in national Constitutions. For example, part of the deliberations of the 2013 G8 Lough Erne Declaration, emanating from the Summit on June 18 2013 in Northern Ireland, states: “Governments should publish information on laws, budgets, spending, national statistics, elections and government contracts in a way that is easy to read and re-use, so that citizens can hold them to account”. 90 March 2013 witnessed the adoption of the African Union’s “Model Law on Access to Information for Africa” by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The Model Law is intended to guide African States on the adoption of access to information (ATI) legislation, as well as provide benchmarks for their “effective implementation”. In Tanzania, efforts to enact an access to information law have been in progress for almost a decade. Both the government and civil society have been working towards this, sometimes separately, sometimes together. In October 2006 the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports took a positive step forward by posting, albeit briefly, on its website a draft Freedom of Information Bill, and invited stakeholders to provide their input on the proposed Bill. However, the draft Bill was almost immediately removed from the website and the government later renounced it. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of an intense and engaging dialogue between the government, media and human rights stakeholders calling for the repeal of laws, which were acknowledged in the Information and Broadcasting Policy 2003 as ‘bad’ laws restricting freedom of expression and the press. In the same year stakeholders met to discredit the Bill and unanimously resolved to reject the draft Freedom of Information Bill 2006 due to the fact that the Bill had the potential to further restrict freedom of information and not to promote it, contrary to Article 18 of the current Constitution. The stakeholders also made a commitment to conduct a nationwide consultative process to gather views and opinions from various stakeholders and to provide input to the government so that a better ATI law could be developed. Since then, a Coalition on the Right to Information led by the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) has conducted a series of consultative meetings with the government and the general public working towards drafting a more comprehensive ATI law. The Stakeholders’ Proposals on the Right to Information Bill contains the following features: Title: “Right to Information Bill” The stakeholders decided on the title ‘Right to Information’ rather than ‘Freedom of Information’ because a right can be exercised but freedom can be a mere recognition without binding effect. The title is derived from Article 18 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania 1977 (as amended in 2005). Similar provisions are also found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Overriding effect on other laws The stakeholders’ proposed Right to Information Bill is intended to have an overriding effect on existing legislation after its enactment into law. The Bill includes a clause that aims to repeal provisions of any other statute that denies or exempts access to any information or document in the possession of a public or private body.