BY VENERANDA LANGA
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information and Media, Prince Dubeko Sibanda yesterday called for the establishment of community radio stations, saying they are pivotal in unpacking Bills to people in different parts of the country using local languages.
Sibanda told NewsDay that some of the Bills that Parliament took to the people during public hearings were difficult to understand, resulting in low turnouts.
The committee is currently gathering public views on the Freedom of Information Bill, which will replace the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).
In some provinces it was noted that people did not understand the Bill and how it will affect their lives.
“It is important to educate citizens so that they have background knowledge on Bills that are being crafted by Parliament,” Sibanda said.
“That is why it is important for government to licence community radio stations so that MPs can be interviewed and unpack the Bills through those radio stations,” he said.
Sibanda further indicated that it would be difficult for MPs to gather people in their constituencies to explain Bills because some constituencies were vast and villages far apart.
“It would also be important for government to gazette Bills in the different indigenous languages of the country. Currently, Bills are gazetted in English which makes it difficult for people to understand. People are also complaining about the cost of data bundles to
download Bills so that they study them before the parliamentary portfolio committees visit their areas to gather public views,” he said.
Sibanda urged Parliament to increase its advertising budget so that it escalates information dissemination on Bills as well as to pay for advertisements that will help unpack the Bills through different media channels.
The Freedom of Information Bill was gazetted on July 5, but legal think-tank Veritas believes the Bill had little to do with freedom of expression.
“It deals almost entirely with access to information, which is guaranteed by section 62 of the Constitution and clause 3 of the Bill even states that its objective is ‘to give effect to the right of access to information’ in accordance with the Constitution,” contends
The Bill seeks to facilitate access to information held by three types of official entities, namely “public entities”, “public commercial entities” and “holders of statutory offices”.
These include government ministries and departments, parastatals, State-owned companies, local authorities and officials such as the Registrar-General’s Office.