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Freedom Of Information Bill 'A Good Start'

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net INVESTIGATIVE reporters may not be able to make use of the Freedom of Information Act for some time, veteran journalist Patty Roker said. While Island FM's Mrs Roker said she is encouraged by the introduction of the Act, its effectiveness in facilitating access to information and its impact on the way government authorities interact with the press and the community, will not be determined for a while. "Yes, it is a start and better than not having any at all. It is going to be some time before the legislation comes into force and we can see how effective and efficient the Act will be," she said. Mrs Roker said many questions will not be answered until the new law is in use, including how the Act will be implemented and function, and how it will be used by the public. She added that even after it comes into force, government ministries and their agencies will have 12 months before they must be in a position to comply with its provisions. "There are going to be a lot of growing pains and it is not going to be the Pandora's Box of information that everyone thinks," she said. The Freedom of Information Bill was debated for the second time in the House of Assembly on Monday following amendments by the Senate. The law aims to facilitate access to information held by the government and its agencies and other designated entities, subject to certain exceptions. The changes made to the Bill by the Senate include: * the Act will come into force on a date to be appointed by the minister, instead of July 1, 2012. * only Bahamian citizens and residents will have the right of access. * the Information Commissioner will now be the Data Protection Commissioner. * the Official Secrets Act will override the Freedom Of Information Act.

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