To enhance the implementation of the Gambia’s Access to Information (ATI) Act, 2021, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) has held a two-day workshop for 20 journalists on the ATI legislation on February 9th and 10th.
The training is part of a two-month project funded by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and it brings together journalists, civil society activists and government information officers to encourage the use of the law when passed to promote transparency and accountability in government.
The President of the Union, Muhammed S. Bah in his opening remarks at the training, acknowledged that the ATI legislation provides journalists and members of the public the right to access official documents held by public bodies.
“Journalists have a right to request, process and disseminate public information held by public bodies to the general public,” he said
He added that all should be mindful of the importance of government to work closely with civil society and other stakeholders to speed up the implementation of the law.
Lala Touray, a senior programme associate at NDI emphasised that the training of journalists on the legislation is an important initiative. She said the workshop will help journalists understand the context of the law and be able to use the knowledge gained to create public awareness about the law, its application, use and benefits.
Also present at the opening ceremony of the training, the chairperson of the CSO Coalition on ATI, John Charles Njei, encouraged journalists to be able to ask tough questions on the status of the implementation of the ATI legislation.
“If we do not put pressure on our authorities, the process of implementation will continue to drag or even be derailed,” he emphasised. He further urged journalists to follow up on the establishment of an Information Commission.
“Access to Information is a basic human right and it enhances informed decision-making and encourages participation in national development,” Lamin Queen Jammeh, Minister of Information, said.
In recognition of the media as a critical actor in nation building, the Minister assured government’s commitment to work towards being more open, accessible and transparent in dealing with Gambian nationals.