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Story Highlights

  • Access to credible information will allow the public to better engage in national decision-making.
  • Access to Information Act (2002) created a new avenue by which the public can have access to government information.
  • The ATI National High School Essay Competition is open to registered high school students.

Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, says access to credible information will allow the public to better engage in national decision-making while ensuring that there is greater transparency in governance.

The Minister, who was speaking at the launch of the 2013/14 Access to Information National High School Essay Competition at the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday, September 24, said information that is neither credible nor truthful does not help the country to move forward.

“I am a strong proponent of access to information. I am a strong believer in citizens’ participation and I believe that if we allow our citizens that access to the information in a timely manner, it will help them to develop and it will help our country to develop,” she added.

Minister Falconer noted that the passage of the Access to Information Act (2002) created a new and meaningful avenue by which the public can have access to government information.

She added that it forms part of the broader commitment to foster greater transparency and accountability in governance and the management of public affairs.

“Over years, we have seen where ATI has given further effect to some of the fundamental principles underlying our democracy and the need for improved accountability, transparency and public participation in governance. By granting to the public that right of access, official government documents and data can now be accessed by the public,” she said.

Senator Falconer further noted that access to information cannot be confined to a static request from a concerned individual or citizens’ action group to a government agency for information.

“Information or data accessibility must move further to embrace open data, thus placing more responsibility on government to provide the public with clear, objective and complete information about its policies and decisions on an on-going basis,” she said.

The ATI National High School Essay Competition, which is in its fifth year, is open to registered high school students between third and sixth forms.

The competition which closes on January 31, 2014, focuses on the topic, “The Access to Information Act (2002) is critical for enabling citizens to exercise their voice, to effectively monitor and hold government accountable, and to enter into informed dialogue about decisions which affect their lives. Discuss.”

Persons are encouraged to send entries to: Access to Information, Unit 5-9 South Odeon Avenue, Kingston 10 or by email to ati@cwjamaica.comor call 968-8282 for additional information.

The ATI Act gives all citizens the legal right to see and get copies of official documents held by Government bodies. Citizens may also ask for personal information to be changed if it is incomplete, misleading, out of date or incorrect.