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Press freedom and access to information are paramount

May 4, 2016, 10:38 AM

World Press Freedom Day was celebrated yesterday throughout the world. It was an occasion to remind the world of the importance of protecting the fundamental human right of freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In marking the significance of the day, we would like to take the opportunity, once again, to call on the government to come up with a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that is consistent with international human rights standards.

This legislation remains critical for creating and preserving an open and accountable government. 

Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state. It must be noted that unnecessary secrecy in government leads to lots of speculations and defective decision-making in governance.

FIO promotes a system of checks and balances in which both the government and media, as well as the general public have a common standard and interaction on the basis of which information is produced.

That aside, it is high time the government repealed all laws that are repressive or oppressive to freedom of press in order to create an environment more conducive for journalists to render their service to society.

An environment conducive for journalists to function well can also be created between the government and the media by reducing taxes on media houses, and on the ever-rising cost of newsprint and other essentials for newspaper production.

While in other countries the government subsidises the media to enable it to play its crucial role in nation-building, in The Gambia it is a completely different scenario.

Journalists should not be seen as enemies by the powers that be, but as partners in development. The media is more than a public relations institution; so any attempt to frustrate the work of the journalist can be inimical to development.

It is against this backdrop that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human and Peoples Rights clearly stipulates the need for freedom of information.

“Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.”

Benjamin Cardozo