Gambian President Adama Barrow has signed on Wednesday 25 August the Access To Information (ATI) Bill into Law. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Gambia Press Union in celebrating this landmark development, noting that the law will not only facilitate the work of journalists but will also empower civil society to access government-held information to enhance accountability and transparency.
Gambia’s National Assembly passed the ATI Bill on 1 July 2021. Since 2016, various stakeholders and civil society organisations including the GPU had worked together to establish the Civil Society Coalition on ATI, which had launched awareness campaigns throughout the country and held consultations with numerous institutions and lobbied members of the National Assembly to support the Bill.
The President of the GPU, Sheriff Bojang Jr. said “The signing of the ATI Bill into Law is a landmark achievement not just for civil society or the media but for every Gambian citizen and will go a long way in fostering the culture of transparency and accountability in the public service.”
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger said: “Access to Information is a fundamental human right that is guaranteed in most constitutions and international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We welcome the signature of this bill which will hold the government accountable and ensure there is a high level of transparency in gambian governance.“
The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, which was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) in November 2019 also guarantees this fundamental right.
The IFJ calls on the Government of The Gambia to ensure that citizens who make requests for information are provided with the right information within the timeframe mandated by law.
“The Gambia Government must put in place effective mechanisms for the mandatory disclosure of information and public information officials who wilfully deny citizens their right to government held information must be sanctioned. Journalists, activists and members of civil society should also endeavour to make good use of the Law as it has every potential to help improve their work,” Bellanger said.