This is the opening remarks of the President of the Gambia Press Union (GPU) Muhammed S. Bah at a two-day training workshop for Journalists on the use of the Access to Information (ATI) Law. The training session which took place at Metzy Hotel in Kotu The Gambia also looked into enhancing transparency in Governance.
By Muhammed S. Bah
- Secretary General GPU
- Chair CSO coalition on Access to Information
I welcome you all to this important gathering, a two-day training Workshop for Journalists on the use of ATI law for news reporting and ensuring transparency in governance.
The Gambia joined other West African peers by adopting the 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 in access to information in The Gambia.
The commitment from the government to recognise this right has been welcomed by various stakeholders, including organisations represented in this room, having been involved in the campaign for the enactment of the ATI law.
However, having an access to information legislation is not the be-all and end-all of our quest as a nation to ensure people have a right to access public information to ensure transparency and accountability in government and governance processes.
As the legislation enters into its implementation phase, it is important that all the necessary tools and mechanisms are put in place for the effective application, use, and implementation of the law.
That is why the GPU has been in consultation with the Ministry of Information and has developed a roadmap that would serve as a guiding tool for all stakeholders for the operationalisation of the law.
The success of the ATI legislation, however, lies not just in the quality of the legal instrument, but also in its application, use, and implementation. Therefore, the GPU seeks to support this process by providing training to journalists to know their rights and understand the procedures for accessing information under the ATI legislation.
The Access to Information Act, 2021, provides an enforceable right for journalists to access official documents held by public officials. Under the Act, journalists have a right to request, process, and disseminate public information held by public bodies to the general public. The Act also provides guidelines for an appeal to the Information Commission for violation of the right to access information by public bodies. This will enhance democracy, ensure citizens’ participation and build greater trust in Government decision-making.
Therefore, journalists have a very crucial role to play in the application and implementation of the ATI law.
This training will include journalists from the mix of mass media: the print and online media, and radio and television. The idea is for the participants to understand the law and be able to use it as an important tool for everyday news reporting and also for open-source investigative journalism.
In the past few years, the GPU has trained journalists on reporting on public finance and budget, investigative journalism, and fact-checking, resulting in a noticeable interest in journalism practices that promote transparency and accountability among journalists and the Gambian media. With reports that have helped expose corruption and raised awareness of the ills of poor governance in The Gambia, and tackling misinformation, usually resulting in some form of actions that are meant to address them.
The beneficiaries would be trained by an expert in ATI legislation on relevant sections of the Access to Information Act and the roles of various stakeholders and the government in its implementation. They will also be trained by an experienced local journalist knowledgeable in ATI and investigations, who will be providing the local context and realities surrounding the application of the ATI law for day-to-day and investigative reporting purposes.
With this, I would like to thank you all for coming, for your commitment and time dedicated to this important activity.
Thank you for your kind attention.