Carter Center has ended a three-month long training for officials from various sectors of Government on the effective application of the Freedom of Information Law. The law was legislated here few years ago to enable the public, including media and journalists have access to public information.
Formal certification ceremony marking the closure of the exercise was executed on Thursday, 7 September at Corina Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia. Addressing participants, an official from the European Union (EU) Alberto Menghini, notes that access to Information was not available some years ago, but now Liberians have access to Information, which means the country has improved.
Mr. Menghini says access to Information is over looked in many countries, but it is important to a functional state. “Active engagement with the public is very important, people need to give the public information so that they can know how their taxes are being spent”, he stresses.
Keynote speaker Commissioner Lemuel A. Reeves of the Liberia Immigration Service, explains that Freedom of Information benefits every Liberian, saying, “It helps journalist or other people to expose corruptions.”
According to him, the FOI helps to reduce speculations as well as enables Liberians to be aware of various developments that go on in various communities.
The Immigration boss reminds participants that they are now obligated to the public in giving them the information they need and should receive the best FOI service.
Assistant Minister of Justice, Hilary Siakor Sirleaf, stresses a need for all government agencies to establish websites that would update the public regularly so that Liberians can have easy access to Information. “Information is key, we have a country to build”, says the Assistant Justice Minister.
For his part, deputy director of police, Col. Abraham Kromah describes the FOI as important for the enhancement of democratic process, challenging the participants that they are now at the frontline in giving information to the public.
He vows that the Liberia National Police will ensure the FOI law is implemented and the police are willing to serve the public with information. Col. Kromah lauds the Carter Center for the training, noting that through the exercise, the police have contributed immensely to the democratic process in Liberia.
The head of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, Anthony K. Souh notes that Liberians always find their own story whenever something happens, saying that through this program they will be able to have access to Information.
He urges the public to follow up on Information and stop speculating. A participant from the Liberia Immigration Service or LIS Washington A. Weaye says the training has educated members of his organization how to go about informing the public and what kind of Information that should be disseminated.
Officer Weaye thanks the Carter Center for the opportunity, saying that prior to the training, they were unable able to distinguish between which information to give the public or which should be exempted.
The Public Information Officer at the Ministry of Defense, Augustus D. Ben, expresses that the training has helped his office to reinforce the way information is sent out. “We live in a society where information is treated like secret; get this training will make us open to the public, being knowledgeable about the FOI law will upgrade some basic information on the website so the public can get access to it.
By Ethel A Tweh-Editing by Jonathan Browne