By Alagie Manneh
The Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA) have both called on President Barrow in a joint statement to speedily sign the Access To Information Bill into law in order to consolidate the restoration of participatory democracy in The Gambia.
The two institutions, while commending the National Assembly of The Gambia for passing the bill, said its signing by Barrow will mark a “significant milestone” in the annals of participatory politics in the country’s nascent democracy.
Signed by Ms Ann Iyonu, the executive director of the GJF, and Mr Edetaen Ojo, MRA’s executive director, the letter further stated: “The signing of the bill into law by President Barrow will enable the Government of The Gambia to achieve a significant milestone in advancing the right of access to information for Gambians as a fundamental human right guaranteed under several international human rights instruments to which The Gambia is a party, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is the foundational human rights instrument on the African continent.”
According to GJF and MRA, 23 African countries currently have specific national access to information laws, with most of such laws coming from West African countries, but The Gambia remains the only country in Anglophone West Africa that has not enacted or adopted national access to information legislation.
They said both the GJF and MRA have followed the progress of The Gambia’s bill at different stages with keen interest, since its formal presentation to the National Assembly for consideration.
“[We] have provided guidance and advice from time to time to our respective partners in civil society, in the media and in government as part of an effort to enrich the content of the bill, strengthen it and speed up the process of its consideration and passage.”
They praised the Gambia Press Union for its effective advocacy in support of the bill.
The organisations pledged their readiness to support and assist the government and people of The Gambia in ensuring an effective implementation of the new access to information framework after it becomes law.