JIS News

Applications for official documents under the Access to Information Act, which came into effect in seven Government Ministries and agencies on January 5 this year, have been made chiefly by members of the media.
Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman said that 56 applications were made in the first 24 days of implementation of the Act. Of this amount, 80 per cent were for official documents in Ministries and agencies that were covered by the Act, while the other 20 per cent were for Ministries and Agencies that were not yet under the Act.
Senator Whiteman made the disclosure on February 6 at a seminar on: ‘Freedom of Information and You’, hosted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Downtown Kingston.
“While we are not obliged to deal with those 20 per cent, as we are focusing on applications we are required to respond to in a timely manner, we are taking steps in respect of all applications to assist wherever possible,” he said.
The Minister also informed that public officials in the Authorities that were not under the Act have a right to be protected and so they could not be expected to act to their own detriment.
“In respect of the designated Authorities, we are making progress and the responses are expected to be made according to law,” he said.The Minister also challenged members of the media and the public to be more responsible in using information obtained.
“We must encourage persons to be responsible . we must understand where the role of the State ends and where the responsibility of the individual begins, and we must ensure that in all that we do, we have an eye to the future,” he said.
Outlining the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) as it relates to human rights, Dr. Joan Neil, Director of the OAS in Jamaica, said that the IACHR, an agency of the OAS, has undertaken numerous reports in many member states and has received and processed thousands of individual petitions.
“The Commission has received renewed mandates in recent years relating to the institutionalization of civil society, democratization and the need for increasing vigilance over the rights of marginalized and indigenous peoples and the disadvantaged. Its role is assuming ever increasing importance in a globalized world, where the needs of the individuals are seemingly overwhelmed by global and corporate issues,” she said.
The Director said that the Commission’s role was to keep “us focused on the real objective of development, such as how gently and justly we are treating our most precious resources, our people, the weakest, the voiceless and the most vulnerable”.

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