Government institutions are now obliged to provide information about governance to the public. Under the new Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989), a person who applies for information from a public institution is not required to provide a reason unless the applicant requests that the application is treated as urgent.
Some information, however, cannot be provided to the public; this includes information prepared and submitted to the President; information that can reasonably affect national security, interfere with law enforcement or public safety; and personal information of other individuals.
All public institutions are expected to compile and publish an information manual annually containing a list of the various classes of information under the control of the institution and a list of the types of information that may be accessed and their applicable fees. Notably, a public institution cannot charge fees if the information is in the public interest.
The Act also established the Right to Information Commission to promote, monitor, protect, and enforce the right to information. The Commission is empowered to resolve complaints by applicants through negotiation, conciliation, mediation or arbitration, and can issue written orders for the production of information.
The implementation of the Act is expected to encourage a culture of transparency and accountability in public affairs and, in particular, make official government data easily accessible to journalists in their work.
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