By Abdoulie John
The survival of any country that emerges from conflict or war depends on support of countries with wealth of knowledge and experience. Since dislodging former President Yahya Jammeh from power, Gambians have been amassing support from governments and international organisations. One country that the Gambia wants to borrow leaf from when it comes to establishing a well informed society is Liberia. Having emerged from a civil war, Liberians were anxious to heal, correct the wrongs and stimulate meaningful socio-economic development. Liberians discovered magic in the enactment of Freedom of Information, which led to the creation of the Independent Information Commission.
As a way of providing participants of a two-day stakeholders meeting with insightful tools that help clear understanding about Freedom of Information, Liberia’s Information Commissioner Counselor Mark Bedor-Wla Freeman. Freeman who detailed the law was implemented in Liberia and the huge challenges the Independent Information Commission had gone through.
Commissioner Freeman also demonstrated how realities on the ground have exposed domestic limitations they were confronted with. Despite the fact that Liberian authorities endorsed a Freedom of Information Law, the commission set up to enforce the new legislation faced huge challenges.
Freeman said the Commission’s mandate is broad as it includes both public and private sectors. “Part of our mandate is to monitor, investigate compliance with the Freedom of Information Act,” he emphasized.
However, Mr. Freeman’s shared experience had convinced many people that everything depends on the political will.
The document that was formally adopted at the end of the two-day stakeholder meeting acknowledges “that the right to seek, receive and impart information is a human right, which is essential for a free and democratic society.”
It also encourages the Gambia government to take into account international instruments that promote an open society as well as “provides incentives and clear deadlines for releasing information with a view to encouraging a culture of disclosure in the public administration.”