Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Demba A Jawo said governments that are liberal in sharing information with citizens are more likely to develop faster than those that withhold or give piecemeal information
He said among the key priorities of President Adama Barrow’s government is healing the divisions of the past and establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
He also expressed government’s commitment to ensure adherence to all international treaties, agreements and commitments the Gambia signed and is a party to.
The minister indicated that unnecessary secrecy in government leads to poor governance and defective decision-making.
The right to information he said is a guiding principle for participatory democracies and that people need it to adequately express themselves on matters of governance, holding leaders accountable, influencing service delivery and decision-making and for promoting and protecting their human rights.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, AbubakarrTambedou expressed government’s willingness to work with the press, saying, “we are not afraid of the press neither do we want the press to be afraid of us”.
He reminded the participants of government’s plans to reform media laws as part of its law and justice reform agenda in the country.
He observed said such fora like this one has been held almost on a monthly basis since the new government took over. This he said shows its commitment to creating the enabling environment for people to develop various sectors and to strengthen the rule of law and good governance.
“As a Government, we want to contribute in a way that is constructive; we want to help guide debate and not control debate; we want to encourage an open door policy so that when you want access to information, you will get it.”
Minister Tambedou therefore assured of his ministry’s commitment to work closely with journalists through the Ministry of Information in order to report to the public in a responsible manner.
For her part, Madam Ade MamonyaneLekoetje, the United Nations Resident Coordinator said the new initiative by the Information Ministry will enable Gambians consider, discuss, and engage in public debates at community and national levels, and act on knowledge and facilitate the formation of public opinion that will enable access to justice.
She went on to urge for the Bill to be seen not just as an essential pillar of governance interventions, but as a prerequisite for addressing wide-ranging poverty issues.