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GPU Trains Journalists On Access To Information Act

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Group photo after the opening Ceremony of the two-day journalists training on ATI

By Buba Gagigo

The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has on Thursday, February 9, 2023, commenced a two-day training session for journalists on the Access To Information Act (ATI).

The opening ceremony was attended by the president of the Gambia President Union, Muhammed MS Bah, Awa Sowe, Senior Information Officer, Department of Information Services, Lala Touray, Programme officer National Democratic Institute (NDI) among others;

Speaking at the opening, Muhammed MS Bah, president of the Gambia Press Union, underscores the importance of the training in preparing stakeholders for the need and importance of effective application as the law enters its implementation phase.

“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 operationalization of the law,” he said

The GPU president also buttressed the point that the success of the ATI legislation 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,” he said.

Awa Sowe, Senior Information Officer, Department of Information Services said the Ministry of Information has developed a roadmap that provides a conceptual framework for a successful implementation of the ATI.

“Through our internal process, the Ministry has developed a roadmap that provides a conceptual framework for a successful implementation. A multi-stakeholder task force implementation committee has been set up to recommend, guide and build the initial stages of the ATI implementation mechanism, including the scaling up of structures and oversight institutions,” she said.

In addition, she disclosed that a consultant is being recruited to develop a strategy out of a comprehensive Assessment of both institutional capacity and readiness for the implementation of the ATI Law.

“We are hopeful that with these initiatives and complementary interventions from partners like Gambia Press Union, the ATI will be successfully integrated into our development process,” she said.

The training is funded by National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Gambia Press Union (GPU). 

Lala Touray, Programme officer at National Democratic Institute (NDI) said the project seeks to support the implementation of the Gambia’s Access to Information Act, 2021, and to encourage the use of the legislation to promote transparency and accountability in government. 

“This training of journalists on the ATI legislation is important and it will help journalists understand the context of the law and can use the knowledge gained to create public awareness about the law, its application, use, and benefits. Building on the successes of the Access to Information legislation,” she said.

The Access to Information Act, of 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.

This training includes 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. 

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