Legislators at the National Assembly yesterday passed the Access to Information Bill 2019 for the second reading after a long debate.The bill was tabled by the Attorney-General and minister for Justice. It seeks to make information accessible to every person in The Gambia including students, researchers, journalists and also to place an obligation on public bodies and private organisations that deal with public funds so that whenever information is requested, the information holder provides it.
The bill, if it becomes law, will place a penalty on anyone who violates the Access to Information Act and the penalties could be as follows: A fine of between D50,000 to D250,000 or imprisonment term between 6 months and 1 year.
The bill, if it becomes law, will also establish an Information Commission that would deal with matters that has to do with Access to Information as it will encourage accountability and transparency in government and also encourage the public to participate in matters of public concern.
Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said custodians of such information are public servants, and therefore if they are charged under an offense and convicted, even if you deem the punishment to be light by the virtue of the conviction they will lose their job because it’s a criminal conviction.
He added that some of them depend on their status at work place in which they could carry a criminal conviction and lose their job that even is more serious than the fine on this clause.
The bill has been adjourned until next week Tuesday for a second reading.