The Western Region Commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) Zainab Umu Moseray has said that elections will come and go but our identity as Sierra Leoneans will always remain. Madam Moseray, who stepped in for the Chief Electoral Commissioner who was unavoidably absent, said this in her keynote statement at the Family Kingdom Resort on Thursday 23rd March 2023, where the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) with support from the Government of Sierra Leone held a day’s workshop on Promoting Access to Information among state and non-state actors monitoring the electoral processes and practices in Sierra Leone.
Madam Moseray said in the build up to June 24th, 2023 Elections, sensational stories and the abuse of the new media is becoming more rampant by the day, which is why access to timely and credible information is crucial to the peaceful outcome of the elections. She added that is why the ECSL has improved on its media engagements, training of media practitioners and recently, launched an application that is used to confirmed results by districts when they would have been published.
The workshop brought together under one roof, electoral bodies like the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, The Political Parties Registration Commission, National Elections Watch and a rage of civil Society organizations that are key to the electoral processes and outcome of the upcoming June 2023 elections in Sierra Leone.
In his opening remarks, Chairman and Information Commissioner of the RAIC Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said he is pleased to have the first set of state and non-state actors who are key stakeholders to look at the relationship between Access to Information and elections, adding that as elections approach the new regulations will paint clear picture of the details that have been missing to give force to the RAI Act. He emphasized that the law makes certain classes of information exempt for national security, personal information among others, which is worth noting as the election’s euphoria increases.
Marian Samu, Chairperson of the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) said it is vital that the regulations of the RAI Act have come into effect and as we approach to elections, as it will create the enabling environment and noted that there is no viable option to access to information in a democracy like Sierra Leone’s.
Abdul Fatoma of the Election Conflict Prevention and Mediation Group stated that Information Access is a Human Right to people and must be respected. Mr. Fatoma noted that through the interventions of their consortium, 18 by-elections were conducted and there are no litigations which shows that the winners as well as the losers are satisfied with the outcome. He added that the RAIC should also intervene to ensure that what happened in the past where internet was shut down during polling day is not repeated.
Acting Executive Director of Campaign for Good Governance (CGG) Sahr Kendema summed up the whole work of the RAIC to the promotion of Accountability, Transparency and Good governance. He encouraged the citizens to make use of the law so that they can enjoy their right to its fullest.
The representatives of the civil society umbrella body The National Elections Watch (NEW) Abdul Karim Samura said their over 400 membership has been beneficiaries of the RAI Act and with the regulations now available three months to national elections will serve as an enabler to their Work especially in the preparation of its strategic plan.
Other speakers include representatives from the Office of National Security (ONS), The Sierra Leone Police(SLP), National Cybercrime Unit, and former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Paramount Chief Peter Penfold who also commended the RAIC for the strides made and look forward to the full usage of the regulations.
The technical session of the workshop was facilitated by the head of the RAIC Legal and Compliance Team, Alan Benjamin Esq with the support of the RAIC Chairman and Information Commissioner, Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, and the RAIC Executive Secretary, Hon Mustapha Braima, who also moderated the opening session of the workshop.
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