Just recently, President Sirleaf, through her Press Secretary, announced the signing into law of the delayed-Freedom of Information Act or FOI. According to the Presidential Press Secretary, the FOI Act was then on its way to the Foreign Ministry to be printed into hand bill.
We at the New Dawn would like to join others who sincerely believe in this FOI, in extending our heartfelt gratitude to all stakeholders who worked assiduously in ensuring the realization of the Freedom of Information legal framework, despite the mischief which caused the delays in its passage into law by the Liberian Legislature.
Of course, we and other well-meaning Liberian journalists do not attribute such delays to the Liberian Legislature, but our colleagues who artificially initiated the prolongation as a way of soliciting enough cash from international donors, including the Open Society Initiatives for West Africa or OSIWA in their personal interest under the guise of lobbying with our honorable brothers and sisters of the Liberian legislature.
As a result of such unwholesome and corrupt attitude on the part of these few colleagues of ours spearheading the process, it took four years just to get the process through today.
Perhaps they may have given the donors and other international media development organizations the impressions that it was the legislature that was delaying the passage of the FOI just to attract funding, as it is done in most cases in our country- don’t – “don’t mind them, we know them well.”
Be that it may, we are indeed proud that our country is once more ahead of others in the West African sub region to have a legal framework wherein all of us will be accountable to the people of Liberia, in terms of making information available to them for their own enlightenment and development.
While we still await the FOI’s budgetary and administrative structures (something that may create another hurdle in making it practical), we do still appreciate the fact that at least and at last, there’s high hope for access to information in Liberia. May we also disabuse the minds of some of colleagues and a few others that the FOI is only targeted at the Government of Liberia.
We need to remind all of us that the Freedom of Information Act just passed by the Liberian Legislature and signed into law by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf does not target the government alone, but us journalists and the entire media sector too.
Sincerely, we at the New Dawn are of the fervent believe that other sectors of the Liberian society are very curious to know the inner-workings of our various Newspapers, Radio and Television stations, as well as Media Development NGO’s.
And surely, they really need to know our management process in our various institutions, considering the “what, why and how” we report about the government and other sectors of society.
We do see this as the greatest challenge to the public and others-to demand information about how we go about our won activities as watchdogs, most especially when there are uncertainties as to how we operate as main-stream media institutions and media development organizations in Liberia. The FOI is neither the property of the Liberian Media nor the government, but us all.
It must, therefore, be accorded the highest degree of adherence, commitment, dignity and respect because its primary intent is what we all rely on to avoid lies, rumor-mongering, deceit and suspicion about ourselves and country.
The FOI is not only for the government.