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Published On: Thu, Oct 20th, 2022

GPU Celebrates Global Day of Universal Access to Information

The Gambia Press Union in Collaboration with UNESCO, commemorated the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) 2022 with the theme “The State of Preparedness for the Implementation of the Access to Information Act, 2021.”

The program held at the Metzy Residence Hotel in Kotu, on Wednesday brought together GPU members among other various stakeholders.

Speaking at the opening at the symposium, the Minister of Information, Lamin Queen Jammeh outlined that at the level of his Ministry, they assumed that information to be a public good and its access is a fundamental human right embodying the right to expression, association and interaction.

He noted that on the basis of this supposition, access to information is an important constituent of democratization process that seeks to promote the critical enablers and the impeccable foundations for transparency, accountability and quality in the public service delivery.

MinisterJammeh made these remarks at a symposium marking the commemoration of the International Day of Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) 2022, organized by the Gambia Press Union in collaboration with UNESCO, theme (The State of Preparedness for the Implementation of the Access to Information Act, 2022.)

As he delivered his key note address, he said being conscious of the inherent role of the information value chain in socioeconomic empowerment and transformation processes, that the Gambia sees information as public good that is readily sought, generated , analyzed and disseminated to enhance knowledge and evidence-based decision-making by individuals, communities and other constituents.

That it is from this perspective that the government through an unprecedented collaboration with non-state actors, enacted the Access to information Act in July in 2021.

He further noted that as a clear testimony of the Executive commitment to realize the underlying objectives of universal access to information, that Prescient Adama Barrow delayed no time to assent the landmark piece of legislation into law on 25th August 2011, with the president’s bare clear commitment and his government as a sign of the readiness of the political establishment to open-up to public security on a scale never seen before.

However, Jammeh highlighted that the information value chain has a critical role in the democratization process and the Access to Information Act (ATI 021) was the result of their collective resolve on entrench and elevate the democratic credentials of the Gambia to an enviable height.

For her part, the Gambia Press Union Vice President, Isatou Keita said that in October 2019, the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations declared 28th September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information, in support of an earlier proclamation by the UNESCO General Conference in 2015. 

That in this year, the theme of the Global Conference on Universal Access to Information was “Artificial Intelligence, e-Governance and Access to Information” which discussed Access to Information and Artificial Intelligence, looking at both the benefits and risks against good governance principles.

She stated that in The Gambia, public interest on Access to Information has grown in recent years following an unprecedented five-year CSO-led right-to-know campaign. That an Access to Information Bill was unanimously adopted by the National Assembly in July 2021 and signed into law by the President of the Republic a month later.

She further informed the gathering that this legislative framework, the Access to Information Act, 2021, grants the citizens, and everyone else – the legal right of access to information that the government and private entities keep on behalf of the public.

However, she confirmed that the success of the ATI legislation, lies not just in the quality of the legal instrument, but also in its application, use, and implementation.

She outlined that the Act came into force after it was officially published in the Gazette via Supplement “C” to The Gambia Gazette No.39 of 18th August, 2021.

That as the legislation enters into its implementation phase, the Gambia Press Union (GPU), with funding from UNESCO Dakar, seeks to initiate discussions on the status of preparation and the roles of various stakeholders in ensuring the full operationalization of the law.

She further recognized that the Gambia government has a great role to play as it is tasked with setting up the necessary mechanisms (the physical and digital structures) needed for the implementation of the law.

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