Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Robert Morgan, says government updates on the coronavirus (COVID-19) are consistent with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) position on the disclosure of health-related information to the public.
Speaking at the digital launch of the Cohort Three Records and Information Management (RIM) Programme Implementation and Workshop, on September 28, Mr. Morgan said UNESCO has cautioned against censorship or withholding health-related information from the public, noting the entity’s acknowledgement that transparency and disclosure are pivotal to sustainable development.
“We are pleased, as a Government, to note that we remain true to this transparency concept and have consistently provided information throughout this pandemic. Many Jamaicans would have seen our digital press conferences [hosted] by the Minister of Health [and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton],” the State Minister said.
Additionally, Mr. Morgan said “there have been press conferences led by Prime Minister [the Most Hon. Andrew Holness] as well, which have consistently sought to give the public useful information on how to manage the pandemic and protect themselves”.
Noting that the Government informs citizens on their actions through their right to information, Mr. Morgan said this is “especially critical” during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We continue to work with stakeholders across the island and globally to get and share relevant information on how our citizens can protect themselves in this time of great challenges,” he added.
The State Minister said Goal 16 of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ – also recognises the importance of access to information to stimulate peaceful and inclusive societies.
“Awareness and inclusion of this right, along with the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, is seen by UNESCO as crucial in the fight against COVID-19,” he further indicated.
Mr. Morgan underscored that citizens’ access to information “contributes significantly to the continuance of our democratic institutions and our current constitutional framework, which, to a great extent, has protected the freedoms of a vast majority of Jamaicans”.
Monday’s launch of the Cohort Three RIM Programme Implementation and the accompanying stakeholder sensitisation workshop formed part of activities marking UNESCO’s commemoration of International Day for Universal Access to Information, under the theme ‘Records Management – Saving Lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope’.
Commemoration of the Day was initiated during the 74th United Nations General Assembly in 2019.
Mr. Morgan said the theme examines the right to information in relation to crises and the benefits of having the constitutional framework for access to information by the public, and its relationship to saving lives and building trust.
The Records and Information Management Programme Implementation and Policy aim to integrate and modernise systems and operations across ministries, department and agencies (MDAs).
This undertaking is intended to facilitate accessible, efficient and effective service delivery to citizens; data sharing across MDAs; ease of doing business, research and attracting investments; increased transparency and accountability through the creation, processing, maintenance, use and disposition of records, in conformity with local policies, standards and international good practice; the preservation of national and cultural identity; leveraging cultural assets; informing the citizenry; and the overall attainment of national development goals.
The Government is continuing the implementation in 25 additional ministries, departments and agencies, which comprise the third target cohort.
The exercise will be led by the Jamaica Archives and Records Department (JARD), an agency of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, with support from the Cabinet Office.
Additionally, as part of the celebration of ‘Right to Know Week’, the Access to Information Unit is undertaking public sensitisation via social media.