The new Freedom of Information Bill should promote the devolution concept by removing bottlenecks and bureaucracy that delay access to information, journalists have said.
Journalists, most of them from community newspapers based in Kwekwe, said this while making contributions during a public hearing organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services in Kwekwe yesterday.
They said bureaucracy was hindering the dissemination of information, especially in this era of technological advancement.
Tonderai Marindire, who writes for a vernacular community newspaper, Jekeso, said key ministries should have information officers in all districts.
“There is much talk about devolution and this should also apply to access to information within key Government departments like police. We should have at least a spokesperson in each district. Currently we are having problems when one wants to get a comment from the police. You are either referred to Gweru, Harare or Bulawayo where it takes a bit of time to get the information,” said Marindire.
Howard Masaninga of The Public Eye weighed in saying information should be readily available in all languages.
“We have 16 official languages in the country. We should have important information on issues such as parliamentary debates and Cabinet meetings in all 16 languages to ensure that it gets to every part of the country,” he said.
Masaninga said information should also be available in braille to cater for the blind.
Chipo Gudhe, an editor with Midlands Observer said important information should be released within the shortest possible time, adding that withholding such information should be made a criminal offence.
“There are some organisations that are withholding important information. We should be able to access any information free of charge and within reasonable times,” she said.
Polite Ndlovu of Risper Media said information should be accessed free of charge.
The committee’s chairperson Prince Sibanda said all the information gathered would be collated and debated in Parliament before being factored into the bill.
“Thank you all for your contributions. We will therefore carry the information gathered here and debate about it in parliament before factoring in your contributions in the bill,” he said.
Parliamentarians are on a nationwide tour to gather views on the Bill, which is set to replace the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.