August 30, 2021
THE GAMBIAN President, Adama Barrow, has signed into law the Access To Information (ATI) Bill, which activists believe will not only facilitate the work of journalists but will also empower civil society to lay their hands on government-held information to enhance accountability and transparency.
The country’s National Assembly passed the Bill on July1 this year.
Since 2016, various stakeholders and civil society organisations, including the Gambia Press Union (GPU), had worked together to establish the Civil Society Coalition on ATI.
It launched awareness campaigns throughout the country and held consultations with numerous institutions and lobbied members of the National Assembly to support the Bill.
After the landmark decision, the President of the GPU, Sheriff Bojang Jr., said: “The signing of the ATI Bill into law is a landmark achievement not just for civil society or the media but for every Gambian citizen and will go a long way in fostering the culture of transparency and accountability in the public service.”
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), of which the GPU is an affiliate, also welcomed the new law.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Access to Information is a fundamental human right that is guaranteed in most constitutions and international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“We welcome the signature of this bill which will hold the government accountable and ensure there is a high level of transparency in Gambian governance.”
The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, which was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) in November 2019, also guarantees this fundamental right.
The IFJ called on the Gambian government to ensure that citizens who made requests for information were provided with the right information within the timeframe mandated by law.
“The Gambian government must put in place effective mechanisms for the mandatory disclosure of information and public information officials who wilfully deny citizens their right to government-held information must be sanctioned,” Bellanger said.
“Journalists, activists and members of civil society should also endeavour to make good use of the law as it has every potential to help improve their work,” he added.