RWANDAN media practitioners have found some articles of the access to information draft law "grossly restrictive" to both the public and media, writes Moses Gahigi in The New Times.

This came up during a one-day consultative workshop on the draft law at La Palisse, Nyandungu.

The major concerns stemmed from article 5 that raised questions on the specific boundary of national security as reason for denial of information from the public.

It was argued this could be used as a scapegoat to hold onto information for personal and other reasons.

The article reads; "Ombudsman and the minister responsible for matters relating to national security shall, having regard to applicable international standards, develop guidelines for determining when information would cause serious harm to the national security of Rwanda "

The draft law goes ahead to state that a public authority or a private body to which this law applies shall disclose information where the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to protected interests.

Also, the long process involved in processing applications for access to information where a journalist has to wait for three working days for a response caused uproar from journalists who said it was too long a period.

'The 3 days of waiting is too long for a journalist. Three days are enough to make the story history," Kim Kizito of Radio Ten, said.

Patrice Mulama, the Executive Secretary of the Media High Council, noted that freedom of access to information is at the centre of human rights observation and economic development and that therefore involvement of the public's views in the final draft is pertinent.

"This law will help curb the problem of media publishing speculative and unsubstantiated information since the law obliges officials in public offices to provide the required information," he added

Article 1 of the bill states, " this law enables the public access to information in the possession of government, public authorities and certain classes of private authorities."

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