- Jamaica will join the rest of the world in observing International Right to Know Week from September 23 to September 28
- The week’s campaign is being used to raise awareness of an individual’s right to access government information
- The public should embrace the right to become informed about the implementation of policies
Jamaica will join the rest of the world in observing International Right to Know Week from Monday, September 23 to Saturday, September 28, under the theme, ‘Right to Know…Power to Change’.
Spearheaded by the Access to Information (ATI) Unit at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), the week’s campaign is being used to raise awareness of an individual’s right to access government information, while promoting freedom of information as an essential facet to democracy and good governance.
“You have a fundamental right to access all government information; and it is this right that strengthens all other constitutional rights,” Director of the ATI Unit, Dr. Damion Cox, said while addressing a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) ‘Think Tank’, held on September 20 at the agency’s head office in Kingston.
With the passage of the Access to Information Act in 2002 and its full-fledged implementation in 2004, the Government safeguarded the right of its citizens and other members of the public to access official government documents.
Elaborating on the importance of the Act and an individual’s right to know, Dr. Cox added that, “the starting principle of the law is that all government information is available. If it isn’t available, then it must fall within the exemptions; so whatever does not fall within the specified exemptions, Sections 14-22 of the Act, is available.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Cox noted that the overarching theme for the Week’s observance focuses on the empowerment that information is provided to every member of the public in the conduct of their affairs and that of the community in which they live.
He advised that members of the public should embrace the right to become informed about the implementation of policies, programmes and projects of the Government.
“Information is empowering and once you have the information, then you can make informed decisions about issues that affect you,” Dr. Cox said.
Importantly, activities have been organised to commemorate International Right to Know Week, which will culminate on Saturday, September 28, observed as International Right to Know Day.
The ATI Unit will begin its media campaign on Monday (September 23) with features, promotions and interviews in the electronic media. Supplements will be also published in the print media, the Jamaica Observer and the Daily Gleaner, on Tuesday (September 24) and on Wednesday (September 25), respectively. Access to information brochures will also be inserted in the Gleaner’s publication on Friday (September 27).
The Right to Know display will also be mounted at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre on Wednesday (September 25) in an effort to engage the public and to advise Jamaicans of their fundamental right.
In addition, open days will be held at select Government Ministries and Agencies, some of which are the Ministries of Health, Finance and Education.
To commemorate International Right to Know Day, a message from the Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, will be published in the Gleaner and Observer.
For more information on the activities and the Access to Information Act, interested persons can contact the Unit at 876-968-3166 or 876-968-8282. Members of the public may also send an email to:firstname.lastname@example.org visit the website at: www.ati.gov.jm.