OPENING STATEMENT OF THE WORKSHOP FOR GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY BY THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE, HONOURABLE DEMBA ALI JAWO AT THE PARADISE SUITE HOTEL, 17TH OCTOBER, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen
Recently, whilst reading some social media postings by Mustapha Njie, a prominent Gambian entrepreneur and CEO of Taf Africa Global Homes, I was impressed by a quote he posted on his wall;
“You cannot compete if you cannot communicate”.
While he may have been looking at it purely from an entrepreneurial aspect, being the successful entrepreneur that he is, but it is very true from every angle one looks at it. Communication is the key to success for every undertaking, including national development.
Therefore, the right to information is a fundamental right of all people, regardless of their social status. It is only when people are given unfettered access to information that they can make every endeavor, including nation building.
We all know what we had gone through in this country in the recent past when information was not only suppressed, but the peddlers of information such as journalists and ordinary citizens were often subjected to all sorts of intimidation and harassment. We had all been witnesses to how journalists were constantly harassed and their media houses were arbitrarily closed down for simply doing what they were supposed to do. How many times have we also seen ordinary citizens being slapped with bogus charges of giving false information to a public official?
I wish to assure everyone that we have now entered a new era in this country when the people’s fundamental right to information will henceforth be granted and respected at all times.
Off course, we should also be cognizant of the fact that whatever we do must also go with responsibility. There is no doubt that as long as we put into consideration the rights and welfare of others in whatever we say or do, we shall achieve our objective of transiting from the dark past to a much brighter future.
We at the Ministry have been quite impressed by a draft roadmap for media reform recently instituted by the Gambia Press Union and its collaborators and partners, which is of course quite in tandem with our objectives.
As you may be aware, we have already started the process of public sensitization on the enactment of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. We all know that it is a brand new concept in this part of the world and as such, we need very extensive public sensitization campaign as to what it entails before we can get to the enactment stage. It is one thing to have the law on paper, but its enforcement is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. Therefore, we should look at every aspect.