In August 2023, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) hired a consultant to simplify the most important sections of the law into a non-technical, commonly used everyday language that will be called the “citizen’s version” of the Access to Information law.
An initial draft of the simplified ATI handbook was reviewed by the GPU in early September, and a second draft incorporating that feedback was review and validated today by various stakeholders from civil society, government, media and academia.
The review and validation of draft simplified version of the Access to Information Act, 2021 held on Tuesday, 26 September 2023 was meant to receive feedback from the stakeholders and to incorporate such feedback into the final draft of the simplified access to information (ATI) handbook; and to have a simple and easy-to-read, user-friendly handbook that will be directly understood by members of the public.
The development of the simplified ATI handbook forms part of a two-year project, “Strengthening Public Access to Information and Media Professionalism in The Gambia”, supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
The project seeks to strengthen public awareness and understanding of the Access to Information (ATI) Act, which was adopted in August 2021.
It seeks to maximize the benefits of the ATI law by promoting information requests from journalists and members of the public, information provision from the government, and the potential benefits derived from the application of the law.
In his welcome remarks, the GPU President, Muhammed S. Bah, said it was important for members of the public to thoroughly understand the ATI law in order to be able to use to access public information.
The Chair of the Civil Society Coalition on Access to Information, John Charlse Njie, said the importance of the simplified ATI handbook cannot be overemphasised.
He said the handbook will serve as an important tool to create awareness on the right to information for various stakeholders and members of the public as per the ATI legislation.
In her keynote address, Fatou Jagne Senghore, an ATI expert and founded of the Centre for Women’s Rights and Leadership, said access to information is a fundamental human right.
She said an access to information law obliges governments to be open, promotes better public finance management, and not only helps in fighting corruption, but also enhances democracy.
“Access to information helps to ensure public trust in government and consolidates the social contract between government and the people by way of ensuring transparency, accountability and better public service delivery,” she said.