Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) has said the Freedom of Information Bill should accommodate low-income earners by reducing cost of accessing information at public and private entities.
Speaking at a public hearing of the Freedom of Information Bill yesterday in Harare, MAZ programmes co-ordinator Nigel Nyamutumbu said the Bill, in its current form, had no provision to enable all Zimbabweans to freely access information.
The hearings are being conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services
“Freedom of Access to Information Bill, in its current form, is inadequate in so far as meeting the regional, continental and international standards. Section 17 of the Bill on the cost of accessing information provides for fees including inspection, research fees and copying and printing fees and many others; our recommendation is that the fees should not permit repetitive costs as the different fees seem to be speaking to the same thing becoming expensive,” Nyamutumbu said.
“These fees must be reasonable and affordable to low income members of society as the principle of affordability in access to information is key for people.
“The Bill suggests that the full details of information can only be released after full payment necessary by applicant,” he said, adding that this could be inhibitive to the very same right it wants citizens to enjoy.
He also added that the Bill needs to clearly spell out responsibilities of the information officers to assist in processing information application requests.
“Section 5 of the Bill creates duty to disclose information, but is silent on the duty to assist people in making information requests. It is important that the Bill gives broad and clear responsibilities for information officers in assisting information applicants in their requests,” Nyamutumbu said.
Chairperson of the committee, Binga North legislator Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC Alliance) expressed concern over low turnout at the public hearing and urged Parliament to publicise the programme for the benefit of ordinary citizens directly affected by such laws.