Media and Civil Organizations in The Gambia are soon to begin a wide campaign to have a law enacted on Access to Information. Law makers of The Gambia continue to drag their feet on the bill despite adopting a report in June and providing amendments to the “Access to Information Bill 2019” tabled by the Select Committee on Education, Training and Information Communication and Technology (ICT).
Journalists and Civil society organizations met on Monday 28th September, a day dedicated to promote Access to Information throughout the world. The Chairman of the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (TANGO), John Njie, said the day is meant to remind duty bearers, the government of “Our rights as citizens and taxpayers to access information on what they’re doing and or not doing. The challenges they face and how ‘we all can better participate to make our country a better place“.
“Knowing the importance of Access to Information in promoting transparency and accountability, the Civil Society of the Gambia have joined forces with the Gambia Press Union to develop a broad base campaign and advocacy for a right to know regime in the Gambia“, Njie stresses.
According to him, Access to Information (ATI) is central to the realization of number of rights. He said where ATI is absent in a national legislative framework, citizens cannot effectively access information about basic services, for them to fully participate in the social and economic development or hold their leaders to account.
“Currently, in The Gambia the flow of information from the government to the citizens has numerous challenges. The websites of many Ministries and departments do not have the relevant information. Responses to written requests are always poorly handled, with institutions often not responding at all, or questioning why the applicant sought the information in the first place” John Njie explained.
Lamin Jahateh of the Gambia Press Union said access to information is not only meant or vital for journalists but to all. He said the Gambia press union (GPU) and the Civil Society Organization would not relent to engage relevant stakeholders in ensuring the Access to Information Bill becomes a law in the country.