On 15– 22 December 2017, Gambia Press Union (GPU) held a workshop on freedom of information during the biennial National Youth Conference and Festival (NaYCONF) .
Held at the provincial town of Basse, the event brought together more than three hundred delegates from across the country. Access to information was one of the eight thematic areas discussed during the four-day conference.
The sessions were facilitated by Madi Jobarteh, Deputy Executive Director of Association of NGOs (TANGO), Gibairu Janneh, a lecturer at the University of The Gambia and former GPU Secretary-General, and Marr Nyang, founder of Gambia Participates. Lamin Jahateh and Namory Trawally, both executive members of GPU also took turns to train the youth on freedom of information advocacy.
The topics discussed include introduction of norms, principles, and standards of freedom of expression; overview of African Union Model Law on Access to Information, Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, and importance of freedom of expression in promoting good governance and economic development.
The participants were also taken through an overview of GPU UNDEF project and strategies for the formulation of access to information; the role of youth in promoting the formulation and implementation of freedom of information law, and the need for CSO coalition on access to information law.
The GPU used NaYConF as a platform to raise awareness for greater recognition of access to information and freedom of expression as a cornerstone of good governance, human rights, democracy and sustainable development.
At the end of the event, the youth and CSOs came up with resolutions, calling on the government to repeal laws against freedom of expression as well as those that promote secrecy in government and public administration. They called for the enactment of freedom of information and anti-corruption law.
The youth and CSOs also resolved to be more proactive and involved in the advocacy for freedom of expression and access to information law in the country.
The workshop adopted a roadmap towards the realisation of the resolution, including the engagement of government and civil society organisations in a bid to create more awareness on freedom of expression and access to information.
As an action point from the NaYConF, the GPU, as part of the UNDEF project, will immediately set in motion the process of mobilising and coordinating the formation of the CSO coalition on access to information.
The coalition will consist of different CSOs working in the areas of human rights, democracy, transparency and good governance.
The capacity of the coalition will be built and thereafter, it would work closely with the government to work out a strategy for joint advocacy for freedom of expression and access to information.
“Access to information is much more than a law for the journalists or the media,” said Lamin Darboe, Executive Director of NYC. “Information enhances good governance and public sector efficiency and effectiveness. It increases the visibility into the work of public bodies, to ensure that policy-making processes are fair, democratic and open.”
“Having an access to information law helps in the fight against corruption and impunity, makes the government to provide accurate and truthful information. This is something the youth want to see in The Gambia.”