On advocacy for access to information

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

(Issue, Monday, 19 September 2016)

Last week, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) conducted a two-day seminar with lawmakers of the country, which looked at access to information and freedom of expression.

The engagement of the National Assembly by the press umbrella body on such relevant issues as freedom of expression and access to information deserves applause, because in the first place it enhances the fact that the press in this country is for all and sundry, especially for our lawmakers through whom our laws are passed.

It is very essential that issues of access to information and freedom of expression are discussed, and their relevance to national development understood by our lawmakers.

Access to information and freedom of expression are the true basis of a nation’s peace and security, as well as development. This is because communication creates while silence destroys. Where there is no communication, in other words, access to information, development is deterred and progress is stifled.

So it is pertinent that such advocacy is maintained and access to information is made a norm in this country as other nations, even closer to us, have instituted such a condition, for the good of the country.

According to reports, presently The Gambia is the only English-speaking West African country without a right to information law of a sort.  Reports have it that Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia have all promulgated laws on right to information, while such a law has been tabled before the parliament in Ghana.

The National Assembly member for Banjul North is right in saying that “access to information is a must; that the press must be given adequate information to transmit to the public.”

Where there is access to information speculations are limited and as correct information is disseminated in the society, people are empowered to make informed decisions and choices on relevant aspects of national development.

So all must really embrace and support the service of the press by giving them access to information and promote national development.

Indeed, the workshops being rolled out by GPU on freedom of expression and access to information can really enhance the growth and development of the country.

As the GPU-GAMES project manager put it, the workshop is particularly essential because all laws pass through the National Assembly; “so it is important to remind ourselves again of the importance of expressing oneself and how access to information is important in nation-building”.

We would, therefore, like to commend and encourage the GPU to keep it up, as well as thank the funders of such a laudable initiative: advocacy on access to information and freedom of expression.

““If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Noam Chomsky