‘Lack Of Political Will Hinders Access To Information’

MONROVIA-Maureen Sieh, Media Development Expert says the lack of political will is a serious hindrance to Liberia’s access to information.

Madam Sieh made the assertion when she officially launch an Access to Information Campaign Launch by the Volunteer for Sustainable Development in Africa (VOSIEDA).

The Access to Information campaign is a twelve-month project implemented by the Volunteer for Sustainable Development in Africa VOSIEDA in partnership with the Press Union of Liberia, the University of Liberian Department of Communication and Media Studies.

The campaign seeks to engage relevant Stakeholders and Citizens in promoting Access to Information with the goal of defending Civil and Human Rights.

Madam Sieh holds that the media and the public will not have adequate access to information from the public sector until the government can demonstrate commitment to using the Freedom of Information Act(FOI) as a tool for transparency and accountability.

Liberia’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was signed into law on September 16, 2010. It provides all persons the right of access to public information,  Advancing the right of access to information is a joint responsibility between the government and its citizens.

The FOI Act is intended to promote and protect the effective, equitable, and affordable exercise of the right of access to information which includes the right to request and receive information, especially information related to the public interest.

According to her, the majority of government Ministries and Agencies don’t have updated websites or functional online platforms for easy access to information by the public, which makes it even difficult for the public to access information that is relevant to them.

The media expert also referred to the 30days response to the law as a deterrent for the implementation of the FOI. She named no remorse, no sustainability, or effort as some hindrances to the full implementation of the law.

“The Independent  Information Commission (IIC) that was created to fully implement the Act is also living on life support. This campaign cannot end with a detailed report on the way forward for the  Independent Information Commission(IIC) and CSOs involved in Access to information” she noted.

Independent Information Commissioner is an independent body appointed by the President of Liberia with the advice and consent of the Liberian Senate who is mandated by the FOI Act to oversee the implementation of the FOI Act, including compliance with the law.

Maureen challenged media practitioners to fact-check the many successes mentioned by the President in his 5th annual State of Nation Address in making sure these things highlighted by the President are true or not.

The freedom to information campaign she said is important, but not really in a time where there is no political will to support access to information.

The event was graced by Siatta Scott Johnson, Coordination of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia, Charles Coffey, President Press Union of Liberia, Euriahs Togar, Chairman of the Mass Communications Department at the University of Liberia, and other civil society leaders thus pleading their full support to VOSIEDA and Partner to ensure full implementation of the project.

They extended commendations to the organizers for the initiative, terming it as a journey that everyone needs to be a part of in order to have an environment of accountability and transparency.

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