By: Lamin B. Darboe
Ministry of Public Service
The Minister of Information has explained that the enactment of the Access to Information (ATI) law is indeed a profound testament to the political commitment of the leadership of His Excellency, President, Adama Barrow to the ideals of democracy.
Hon Lamin Queen Jammeh made this statement on Thursday while officially presiding over the official opening ceremony of a two-day training workshop for the government Information Officers on Access to Information Act, 2021 held at Senegambia Beach Hotel.
The training was organized by The Gambia Press Union (GPU) in collaboration with the Department of Information Services (DoIS) and funded by the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
According to Minister Jammeh, it is the strong belief of President Barrow’s administration that information is an essential ingredient as well as an effective working tool that can reliably inform policy decision-making in all democratic dispensations.
He stated that for citizens to have access to timely and accurate information constitutes part of their fundamental rights as it also influences and enhances the participation of the citizenry for inclusive development.
Minister Jammeh registered his appreciation to both GPU and as well as NDI for effectively engaging his Ministry through the Department of Information Services from conceptualization to the implementation of the training.
Information Minister, Hon Jammeh, therefore, commended GPU and NDI for their partnership with his Ministry thus encouraging them on the sustenance of the partnership.
“Let me equally thank the Director, Department of Information Services, and her staff for their technical inputs and guidance of this training, including the content of the training modules and its curriculum,” Information Minister Jammeh expressed appreciation.
“Promulgation of the ATI Bill into an Act, back in August 2021 is therefore not only a necessity but as well as a sufficient commitment of President Barrow’s leadership to political pluralism and thus constitutes an integral part of his legacy,” Minister Jammeh stated.
For his part, the President of The Gambia Press Union (GPU), Muhammed S. Bah said the Gambia had an Access to Information law after a five-year CSO-led right-to-know campaign.
This campaign GPU prexy continued, was led by the Gambia Press Union (GPU), and culminated in the establishment of the CSO Coalition on Access to Information which initiated the process of promulgating an Access to Information (ATI) Bill in 2021.
According to Mr. Bah, access to information is critical for enabling citizens to exercise their voice, to effectively monitor and hold the government to account, and to enter into an informed dialogue about decisions that affect their lives.
GPU boss reminded that it is seen as vital for empowering all citizens, including vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, to claim their broader rights and entitlements.
He added that the potential contribution to the good governance of access to information lies in both the willingness of the government to be transparent, as well as the ability of citizens to demand and use information.
As the legislation enters its implementation phase he added, GPU in collaboration with the Ministry of Information (MoIn) seeks to support this process by providing training to government information officers to know their duties and responsibilities as per the legislation.
“Under the Access to Information Act, 2021, information officers in all government institutions are tasked with the gathering, documentation, and dissemination of public information held by these bodies to the general public,” GPU President explained.
He explained that government institutions are required to proactively disclose information in various forms, be it press releases, press conferences, or publications on their websites and via other mediums.
Mr. Bah therefore stated that information officers have a crucial role to play in the application and implementation of the ATI law and he thanked the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for supporting the training, adding that with their support, GPU was able to conduct the training for Journalists and CSOs on the ATI legislation.