Statement on International Day for Universal Access to Information

Sheriff Bojang, Jnr GPU President

Today, 28th September 2021 is the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI),also known as the International Right to Know Day. The right to receive information is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is one of the most important personal and political rights that makes it possible for citizens to have access to relevant information.
Recognizing the significance of access to information, the 74th UN General Assembly proclaimed28th September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) at the UN level in October 2019. The day had been proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in2015, following the adoption of the 38 C/Resolution 57, declaring 28 September of every year as IDUAI.

The theme for this year is “The Right to Know – Building Back Better with Access to
Information.” This theme highlights the role of access to information laws and their
implementation to build back strong institutions for the public good and sustainable development, as well as to strengthen the right to information and international cooperation in the field of implementing this human right.

This year’s theme could not have come at a more opportune moment as The Gambia celebrates the recent signing into law of an Access to Information legislation by His Excellency President, Adama Barrow. The signing of ATI Bill 2021 into law makes it the first time in the history of The Gambia for the right of access to information to be legally recognised as a human right. The law is aimed at proactive and organised dissemination of public records and information to the people.
The Gambia has now shed off its unenviable image as the last and only defaulting country in Anglophone West Africa with an access to information legislation. The importance of the ATI legislation in The Gambia cannot be over emphasised. For many decades Gambians have not being able to access information like public records and information by public authorities making it impossible to engage the leaders and hold them accountable for their actions.

In the coming years, the effectiveness of the Gambia’s new Access to Information law will be putto the test. As such, this year’s theme resonates with the current situation in The Gambia, where a lot of uncertainty remains as to the implementation of the newly passed legislation. As the ATI law has the potential to hold government accountable and ensure that there is a high level of transparency in Gambian governance, a threat exists that government may deprive this legislation of the mechanisms it needs to make it effective.
In addressing this solemn concern, the Chairperson of the CSO Coalition on ATI, John Charles Njie: said “It is imperative that The Gambia government shows commitment to putting in place effective mechanisms for the mandatory disclosure of information, and that public information officials who willfully deny citizens their right to government held information must be sanctioned.”
Adding his voice to the issue, GPU President Sheriff Bojang Jr also expressed the need for state authorities to ensure that “journalists and civil society have access to information on behalf of the population to hold those in power to account, to question decisions and actions made by governments in the name of those who elected them, and to create a healthy space for investigative journalism for accountable governance.”
On this day, the GPU reiterates its commitment to work with the CSO Coalition and the Gambian Government to ensure the establishment of the requisite structures to make the Access to Information Act functional. The GPU also calls on the Gambian Government to ensure safe and transparent data collection, strengthen record keeping and enable accurate analysis, in line with international privacy standards.

Finally, in commemoration of 2021 International Day for Universal Access to Information in The Gambia, the GPU wishes to pay tribute to all partners who supported it in its drive to see an Access to Information legislation finally come into force in The Gambia. Your time, efforts, resources and dedication in ensuring that there exists a better space for freedom of information has not gone in vain. We look forward to working with you to ensuing that the right to information is at the centre of efforts to developing a more informed and resilient Gambia

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Sainey M.K. Marenah
Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.


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