‘Right to Information’ to become a fundamental Right

journalistThe Right to Information Bill, which will be presented in Parliament soon, will have constitutional status, Media Ministry Secretary Karu Paranawithana said on Thursday (19).

He said the Bill is being drafted to enable the public to have access to information from public institutions and it is not about media freedom alone.

“There are reservations with regard to national security concerns and aspects of privacy,” Paranawithana pointed out.

“Steps will be taken to introduce constitutional changes for this, prior to the presentation of the Right to Information Bill in Parliament,” he said.

“The changes will be made under a Fundamental Rights Chapter in the Constitution which will enable ‘Right to Information’ to become a fundamental right in Sri Lanka, once the bill is enacted into law,” explained Paranawithana.

Commenting on the drafting task, he said they are working with several working papers. “Under study for the preparation of the final draft are those Right to Information Bills that were submitted by the Sri Lanka Law Commission, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe and Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya,” Paranawithana said.

“There are several working papers, among them are Right to Information Acts of Bangladesh and India,” he said.

“The draft bill on Right to Information is expected to enhance good governance,” he said.

Right to Information activists today called on the government to enact the Right To Information bill encompassing, private companiess and Non Government Organisations (NGO), within the definition of ‘information required by the public’, in order to ensure proper potency of the legislation.

They said that certain NGO’s and Private Companies which have direct links to public information have not been included in the bill and instead only “public bodies’ have fallen within the definition of those required to provide information.Other jurisdictions which have enacted the law, such as Nepal, Indonesia and South Africa have specific articles referring to NGO’s and private organisations and the right of the public to request for information possessed by them,” Uvindu Kurukulasuriya said.

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