By Kumba Leigh
The Department of Information Service, under the ministry of information in collaboration with Unesco has ended 2-days training for government information officers on Access to Information Law (ATI), strengthening good governance, democracy, decision-making process and freedom of expression.
The training organised under The Gambia National Commission for Unesco participation program 2022/2023 at a local hotel in Bijilo is part of government’s efforts to sensitise and popularise the access to information law through local languages.
The minister of information, Lamin Queen Jammeh commended Unesco for supporting the training. He said the UN agency has been a long-standing development partner of The Gambia.
Minister Jammeh said The Gambia as a member state of Unesco, has been contributing to the sustainability of the agency. He assured Unesco of his ministry’s commitment to continue partnering with them and all relevant institutions to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the Access to Information Law.
He said Unesco-NATCOM has also been providing technical, capacity building, and resource mobilisation support through programmes and project interventions, with various government institutions including his ministry.
“The importance of access to information cannot be over-emphasised, hence many international conventions and organs have recognised the inevitability of an effective mechanism for access to public information in a functional democracy.
Since the passing of the law my ministry has been working assiduously together with partners on the implementation mechanism,” he said.
The enactment of the law, he added, was a profound testament of President Adama Barrow and his government’s commitment to the ideals of democracy, and a conviction that meaningful participation in democratic processes required a citizenry that is well-informed.
He commended the department of information services for organising the training.
The acting secretary general of Unesco-NATCOM, Maimuna Sidibeh said the ATI law requires some orientation and capacity enhancement particularly for government officials.
“We intend to create a wider understanding of the ATI law, citizen interaction and utilisation of the law in order to enhance the delivery of strategic information to the Gambian people. We want to ensure a wider participation in the democratisation, and decision-making process,” Sidibeh said.
She said Unesco strongly advocates for access to information as a fundamental freedom and a key pillar in building inclusive knowledgeable societies, adding that access to information serves as an integral part of freedom of expression.
Aisha Davies, director department of information services, said the ATI is envisage to strengthen the country’s democratisation process and consolidate the gains being made in the area of freedom of expression.
“The enactment of the ATI bill is a landmark event in our country’s democratic transition as it sets the stage for the protection of fundamental freedoms of the citizens, makes institutions more transparent, accountable, improves government service delivery and encourages public participation in matters that concern them,” director Davies added.
She said the training of information officers is crucial since their responsibility is to manage contents. Madame Davies commended President Adama Barrow for creating the enabling environment and thanked Unesco for funding the training.