Liberia: Govt Expresses Strong Support for Universal Access to Information

The government through the Permanent Mission to the United Nations said it is poised to submit to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for adoption, a draft resolution on the "Proclamation of September 28 as the International Day for the Universal Access to Information."

According to a dispatched, the proposed resolution will complement a 2015 UNESCO resolution, proclaiming September 28 as International Day for Universal Access to Information.

On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, the Permanent Mission of Liberia to the UN in collaboration with partners- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), International Institute for Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), and the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), convened a Coordination Meeting with United Nations Member States to build support for the proposed resolution.

Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations, who chaired the coordination meeting, said setting aside of such commemorative day was necessary as "access to information is not only essential for the democratic functioning of a society, but also pivotal and vital for the sustainable development of countries."

Kemayah said that access to information was an enabler of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); facilitating both implementation and the measurement of progress.

"In addition to the fact that access to information is necessary for the realization of the 17 SDGs, it is also important to facilitate the measurement of progress being made towards the realization of these goals."

Kemayah said that setting aside of September 28 as International Day for Universal Access to Information, will provide an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of the right to information, and create a platform for governments, civil society, citizens and development partners to reflect on challenges and ways to promote the advancement of access to information as a tangible tool for development and the realization of the SDGs.

While reflecting on Liberia's leadership in the area of access to information, Amb. Kemayah, said that Liberia has one of the best Access to Information Laws globally; allowing both the media and individual citizens to demand information from any Public/Private Authority that carries out government related functions.

Kemayah said President George Weah, was fully committed to promoting and advancing press freedom, freedom of expression, and access to information; evidenced by the signing into Law of the Kamara Abdullah Kamara (KAK) Act of Press Freedom, which decriminalizes free speech.

"In February this year, President Weah signed into Law the KAK Act of Press Freedom, which decriminalizes free speech in Liberia through the amendments of Chapter 11 of the Penal Law of 1978, repealing Sections 11.11 on criminal libel against the President; Section 11.12 on Sedition and Section 11.14 on criminal malevolence. The enactment and signing into Law of the KAK Act of Press Freedom, is a clear evidence; and further manifestation of the unflinching practical commitment of President Weah to promoting and advancing press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information," he said.

Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, spoke of how the agency member States came to adopt the day, and signaled further that other parts of the UN family could possibly become involved if the UNGA decided to recognize September 28.

Berger went on to affirm, "UNESCO is ready to continue expanding the number of places where the Day is observed with impact, such as this upcoming September 28; where at least 20 countries will commemorate the occasion."

Participants representing various UN Member States, and other International Organizations, including but not limited to Cuba, Costa Rica, Ireland, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone, spoke favorably about the proposed resolution.

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