Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Lawmakers Consider Access to Information Bill

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Assembly has on Tuesday 15th June 2021, considered the Access to Information Bill 2019.

The bill sailed through the first and second reading stages of the legislature, after which the lawmakers debated on the bill and referred it to the Information Committee for scrutiny and then reported its findings to the plenary for scrutiny, consideration and adoption.

The bill on the 14th July, 2020 underwent the first phase of the consideration stage by the plenary and on the 15th June 2021, the plenary continued the consideration of the bill.

The continuation of the consideration was marked by a daylong scrutiny and consideration, during which the deputies considered the bill clause by clause. Thirty-two (32) clauses of the bill were considered.

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Most of the considered clauses now stand parts of the bill, with some considered with amendments, whilst others were redrafted and subsequently form parts of the bill.

The bill was tabled before the lawmakers by the Gambia’s Information Minister, Ebrima Sillah, in 2019 and it seeks to provide the framework for ordinary Gambians to access public records and information held by authorities or by persons providing services for them.

This would provide for the procedure to obtain access to information, as well as provide necessary exceptions to the right of access that should be limited and specific, in line with international standards.

The bill also among others, protects the right to privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by public bodies, medical records and communication with legal practitioners, as well as security sensitive information necessary for law enforcement and the defense of the state.

At the climax of the consideration stage, Justice Minister, Dawda Jallow who participated during the consideration of the bill, informed the Assembly that the bill 2019[now 2021], has gone through committee stages and it has gone through some amendments and it now awaits the third reading.

Speaker Mariam Jack Denton said: “The Assembly Business Committee has scheduled the third reading of the bill to Tuesday the 22nd of June 2021. But prior to that, the offices of the Attorney General and the Clerk, in accordance with standing orders 72[20] should print the amended version including all the amendments, for circulation to Members before the third reading”.

Sitting continues today Wednesday 16th June 2021, at 10:00 am prompt.

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