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C4J calls for appointment of Right To Information Commissioner

The Campaign for Justice (C4J) organisation says an Information Commissioner should be appointed as soon as possible to make the Right To Information (RTI) Law more effective.

C4J is a Non-Government Organization that has been operating in the country since 2018 with field experience in investigations.

The organization is young, but its investigators are from different backgrounds, including journalists and former Police Investigators who have been at the frontline of the investigating field for years.

The only barrier that halted some key information to be accessed by the investigators in the big cases that C4J thought were of public interest was the ‘Secrecy Act’.

The Act was a concrete block in many investigations within the private investigation entities in the past until the birth of the RTI Bill that was legislated by the Vanuatu Parliament in 2016 and it is now law.

Today investigators in the private firms and even in the local broadcast and print media are still encountering difficulties accessing real information, despite the existence of the RTI Bill.

Yesterday C4J invited the RTI Unit for lunch at the Moorings Hotel during which RTI officers explained more about the RTI Law and the process to access any information in any government agencies that relates to any case C4J is dealing with.

It was a great informative discussion that both C4J and other journalists representing all media outlets.

Harold Obed from the RTI Unit says with the RTI law any people can access any information that is of relevance to the public interest from any government agency.

Harold Obed with C4J and media team during discussions yesterday at Moorings

Harold Obed with C4J and media team during discussions yesterday at Moorings.

Mr. Obed from the RTI Unit stressed the RTI Act, basically aims to eradicate the unawareness of the rights that the citizens possess. It is aimed at endorsing transparency and liability in the governmental institutions of the country.

“When you need an information, confront the office concern; liaise with a RTI Officer who can help you,” he said.

“But if you are not satisfied with whatever he/she provided then you may consult his/her superiors and ask questions in relations to your topic. If they still refuse, then you can consult the Information Commissioner and follow the process to court.”

C4J says an Information Commissioner should be appointed as soon as possible as it will help in making the RTI Law more effective.

It urged the new government that will form after March 20 to make it a priority to appoint someone in that position to fully make the RTI Law more effective.

The RTI Bill Act of 2016 was passed by the Parliament of Vanuatu in November 2016 and it was published in the government gazette on February 6, 2017. The RTI law gives a legal basis to the right to information and requires all government agencies to release information. It also establishes a complaints mechanism if agencies do not release information.

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