Bill Watch 40/2019 [The Freedom of Information Bill] 30 July 2019 receive a response within 48 hours. If an applicant receives no response within the requisite period, or any extension of it, the application will be deemed to have been refused applicant can then appeal to the Zimbabwe Media Commission under Part VI of the Bill. Refusal to provide information An almost equally large part of the Bill ‒ Part IV ‒ is devoted to grounds on which access to information may be refused. Although the Part is long it is not as restrictive as it may seem at first sight: First, the grounds listed in Part IV for refusing access to information are generally reasonable: they range from non-disclosure of personal and confidential information about individuals, through non-disclosure of trade secrets and other proprietary commercial information, to non-disclosure of information likely to prejudice defence and State security. Secondly, clause 20 states that entities cannot refuse to supply information except on the grounds listed in this Part. This is not quite true, because clause 6 will prevent disclosure of Cabinet deliberations and certain court proceedings, while clause 15 will allow public bodies to refuse access to health records; neither of these clauses is contained in Part IV. But at least public entities will not have a general discretion to refuse to supply requested information, which they have under section 9(4)(c) of AIPPA. Although the Bill is not clear on the point, it seems that a public body will not be able to refuse to supply information on the ground that the applicant does not have a constitutional right to it: for example, that an applicant who seeks information in the interests of public accountability is not a citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe. Indeed, the Bill does not require an applicant to establish his or her right to information when requesting access to it. This is a welcome extension of the public’s right to be informed, and may help promote a culture of openness in government. Third parties Under Part V of the Bill, a public body that receives a request for information about a third party will have to notify the party about the request if the information is such that the request could be refused on a ground set out in Part IV of the Bill. A third party will have seven days to consent to the disclosure of the information or to make representations as to why the request should be refused, and then the public body must pay due regard to their representations when deciding whether to grant or refuse the request. Appeals Persons whose requests for information have been refused will have a right of appeal to the Zimbabwe Media Commission, and third parties will have a similar right if public bodies decide to grant requests despite their representations. It is doubtful if the Commission is the right body to hear such appeals because requests for information may, and often will, be made by persons who are not media practitioners. The Commission’s decision on an appeal will be final ‒ i.e. there will be no further appeal ‒ though the decision may be reviewed by the

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