The Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) has joined other countries across the globe to commemorate the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). The proclamation of 28th September every year as IDUAI has created the platform for citizens, civil society organizations and partners to reflect on the significance of data access. The global theme “Access of Information – Saving lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope,” was localized by the commission as Access to Information - Saving Lives through Transparency and Accountability.
Speaking at the ceremony at RAIC headquarters in Freetown , the Chairman and Information Commissioner Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw said the commemoration of IDUAI by RAIC and the rest of the country is “ important not least because it resonates with our overall vision to make Sierra Leone part of the global information rights society. but also because of its nexus with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights as well as sections 15 and 25 of the 1991 Constitution of SL all of which provide the international and national legal foundations of the 2013 Right to Access Information Act. “It is an opportunity for countries to identify challenges and design new and innovative ways to promote the advancement of access to information as a tool for development and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS, said Dr Shaw.
This day the Chairman adds, sends a clear message that countries like Sierra Leone are committed to enhancing access to information and achieving the SDGs. Dr. Shaw said access to information (ATI) strengthens transparency and accountability prevents corruption, and complements other rights and SDGS to foster good governance and economic development.
The Chairman of The National Council for Civic Education (NaCCED) Kalilou Tutangi commends RAIC for bringing to the fore such an important day at a time when fake news and rumor mongering are taking a prominent stage in our society. NaCCED, he added, sees the RAIC as a partner they can Collaborate with to achieve the desired result. Mr. Tutangi called on all MDAs and civil society organizations present to ensure that data literacy is factored in their various schedules, commending Statistics Sierra Leone (StatSL) for the data review which has position data as a tool for monitoring in Sierra Leone.
Speaking on behalf of StatSL, Clementina Akram said governments should know that data belongs to the people and should therefore ensure it is always available to them. She said the role data plays cannot be emphasized especially, in the COVID 19 response and calls on MDAs to abide with the RAIC demand to proactively disclose information, which StatSL has done.
Representing civil Society, Charles Keif Kobai from FORWARD SL, delved on the local theme of how access to information can save lives through transparency and accountability, citing the lack of adequate data on in the COVID 19 response and it rippling effect. Mr. Kobai said access to information cannot be trivialized as it is key for the development of every country.
In his contribution to the round table discussion, the Chairman of the Independent Media Commission , Mr George Khoryama said his commission complements the work of the RAIC by reminding journalists and public authorities that there they should not only endure access to information for the public but access to credible information because fake news is very destructive and can undermine the whole purpose of ensuring free access to information.
Francis Laguba Kieli from the Office of National Security ONS, underscored the need for information to be accessed responsibly highlighting the classified information that fringes on national security, of which the Right to Access Information RAI Act of 2013 is aware of. Mr. Keili said the security sector thrives smoothly where the credible data is readily available, calling on MDAs to do such.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI was also observed in the provincial headquarters of Sierra Leone, coordinated by the RAIC regional offices.