Twenty Civil Society Activists are being trained by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) on access to information as part of a mini-grant project funded by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) aimed at supporting the implementation of the Gambia’s Access to Information Act, 2021.
The 23rd – 24th February, 2023 training is meant increase knowledge and understanding of the law, the right of access information and the obligations of public bodies to disclose information under the ATI legislation.
Participants are expected to utilise the knowledge gained in pursuing the right to information and also be able to create public awareness of the law are to encourage its use by members of the public.
Speaking at the event on Thursday, Artan Alijaj, Senior Resident Director for NDI in The Gambia, said while the access to information legislation is a new thing for the Gambia, the good thing is that there is political will from the government to work with partners for the implementation of the access to information law.
He said that the government needs support to realise the implementation of the law and NDI will begin supporting this process from the 1st of March, 2023.
Mr. Alijaj also said the support given to the GPU by NDI to train journalists, CSOs, and government information officers, forms part of the processes of operationalizing the Access to Information Act.
“NDI is working with the government in designing and implementing communication plans that will help the government to established practices that are in line with democracy and promoting transparency and accountability,” he said.
GPU President, Muhammed S. Bah, said the training of civil society activists is timely as “we need to create more awareness of the access to information law and advocate for its use in order to promote accountability and transparency.”
However, he said in order for CSOs to effectively utilise the law and to raise public awareness, it is important that they are trained to fully understand the law, know their rights to information, and be able to utilize the same.
“That is why the GPU seeks to support this process by providing training to civil society and activists to know their rights and understand the procedures for accessing information under the ATI legislation,” Bah said.
Basiru M. Jarju, the Executive Secretary of the Broadcasters Association, said commended the concerted efforts of various stakeholders in ensuring the Gambia joins West African peers in recognizing the right to information through legislation.
“Access to information is not a privilege but a right, and no government should deny her people information,” Jarju said on behalf of the CSO Coalition on Access to Information. “We hope the government will fulfill this right and its obligation to people of the Gambia by proactively and reactively disclosing public information as per the ATI legislation.”
He said no country can develop without the free flow of information to enable citizens make informed personal and public-interest choices with regards to the development of their country.
The Gambia joined other West African peers into adopting an access to information legislation through the National Assembly in July 2021, which was assented to by the President of the Republic a month later.
This legislative framework grants the citizens, Journalists- and everyone else – the legal right of access to information that the government and private entities keep on behalf of the public.
This follows an unprecedented five-year CSO-led right-to-know campaign, which has in great ways, increased public interest on access to information in The Gambia.