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Saint Kitts and Nevis: National Assembly Passes Freedom of Information Law

(May 31, 2018) On May 3, 2018, members of the National Assembly of the Caribbean island federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis met in the capital Basseterre and passed the Freedom of Information Bill 2018. The Bill had its first reading in 2015. (Parliament News: National Assembly Meets on Thursday May 3, THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF ST. KITTS AND NEVIS (last visited May 30, 2018); St Kitts Passes Freedom of Information Bill, CNW (May 8, 2018).)

News sources report that the Bill’s objective is “to promote maximum disclosure of information in the public interest, to guarantee the right of everyone to access to information, to provide for effective mechanisms to secure that right and for related matters.” (Freedom of Information Bill 2018 Successfully Passed into Law in St. Kitts and Nevis, TIMES CARIBBEAN (May 4, 2018).)

According to the Saint Kitts and Nevis Attorney General,

the Bill is to give to citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis a right to access information that is held by public bodies and those other bodies that interact with the public and do work with the public. … The debate has brought out that this right to access information [is] critical … because once a citizen can ask the government questions that are relevant, it allows the government to … be on the straight and narrow to reduce the possibility of corruption and wrong doing. A citizen being able to question what the government do is of paramount importance for the concept of what is good governance. (Id.)

Insinuating that the failure of the former administration to enact any legislation on freedom of information after 20 years in office was tied to corrupt practices, Prime Minister Timothy Harris rejected the opposition’s criticism of the bill. (St. Kitts-Nevis Opposition Leader Has No Moral Authority to Criticize Freedom of Information Legislation, SKNIS (May 4, 2018).)

The prime minister stressed the importance of public access to information, but also noted that the bill recognizes certain exceptions for “matters of national security; health and safety; court proceedings; trade secrets and confidential business information; intellectual property rights; international relations between countries; and the protection of privacy for third parties if their disclosure consent is missing.” (Id.)