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AFIC Urges Uganda Government to Relax Restrictions on Access to Information as a Public Good

AFIC has reminded government that an informed public shall always make informed decisions that subsequently leads to economic development of that country and that a society which is deprived of vital information will always remain backward.

Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa made these remarks yesterday during the launching ceremony for the national campaign to commemorate the International Day for Universal Access to Information [IDUAI] under the theme ‘The Right to Know- Building Back Better with Access to Information ‘which was held at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala presided over by the State Minister for National Guidance, Hon. Kabbyanga Godfrey Baluku.

Hon. Kabbyanga said the government through his ministry has completed plans of sensitizing all ministries, departments and agencies about this important Act however the UN-OHCHR Deputy Country Representative to Uganda Grace Pelly, called for the swift implementation of the Act by the government so that the public can make informed decisions.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission representative, Hon. Meddie Mulumba said they are trying to encourage the government to take up its obligation of sensitizing the public about the Act and also being handy in releasing the information upon request without delay.

Gilbert Sendugwa said that as the country prepares to commemorate this important day, parliament should urgently require all ministers to comply with section 43 of the access to information Act. Regarding annual reporting to the house, allocate budgets for ATIA implementation by all ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs] and amend the access to information Act. In line with the Model Law on Access to Information, he urged all African Union Member States to reduce statutory timelines within which to respond to information requests and strengthen oversight through the creation of an independent information commission.

He challenged the Ministries, Departments and Agencies to prioritize establishment and operationalization of systems and procedures for protective disclosure and effective response to information requests and also urged the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance to prioritize support for MDAs for them to be in position to implement the ATI Act.  

He urged the African Union [AU], UNESCO and the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights to support the Government of Uganda and other African governments to adopt and implement respective national access to information laws for the common good of their people.

Turning to the local civil society organizations [CSOs], Sendugwa observed they should all mainstream access to information in their strategies and monitor the extent to which governments actualize their obligations for public access to information.

Sendugwa pointed out that lack of access to information has created a mistrust of governments and key people at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic and also made its fight very costly, unnecessarily longer and devastating adding further that lack of this vital information has created a fertile ground in which misinformation on Covid-19 spreads faster than the pandemic itself.

He noted it was not a secret that across Africa and around the world, misinformation related to COVID-19 vaccination has significantly undermined vaccination campaigns, thus exposing millions to infections and deaths while costly and scarce vaccines go to waste because of their expiration before use.

Originally published by Elgon Daily.