Coinciding with International Day for Universal Access to Information on Monday, Seychelles has launched a manual highlighting the roles and responsibilities in accessing information from public domains.
The How-To Manual publication of the Access to Information ACT 2018 is produced by the Information Commission.
In a ceremony at State House on Monday, chief information commissioner John Richardson presented a copy of the How-to Manual to Vice President Vincent Meriton, who holds the portfolio for Information.
Meriton said that the manual will help public bodies to manage and simplify the Access to Information Act which in itself is very complex to facilitate both the public service and the end users which is the public in general.
"When the citizens use this facility, they are armed, they have information. When a citizen is informed, he or she can take part in running of public affairs and you have a more consensus approach from the part of the citizens which is critical in the running for government," said Meriton.
The vice president added that the act coming into force in 2018 put an end to unnecessary secrecy and brought about a new era of openness where citizens have the right to information.
It was Meriton himself who initiated the idea of the manual and created a committee to work on the same as it is a requirement of the Act that the public knows about their right of access to information.
"The How-To Manual is a response to this provision of the Act. It presents the rights and responsibilities of all parties, in the process be it the requester of information or the respective public entity," explained Thereza Dogley, the chief executive officer of the Information Commission.
Dogley stated and reminded all of what Article 28 of the Constitution of Seychelles says about the right to access to information, "the state recognizes the right of access of every person to information relating to that person and held by a public authority which is performing a governmental function and the right to have that information rectified or otherwise amended, if inaccurate. The state recognises the right of access by the public to information held by a public body."
Dogley explained that currently there are 120 public entities in Seychelles - 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean -- and most do have full time information officers. The information officers are trained and are offered refresher training to assist them to keep abreast with what is expected of them concerning requests for information. Public relations officers in these organisations have also been worked with so that they can also share what is happening in their organisations.
The chief executive of the Information Commission, Thereza Dogley, said that the head of these enterprises are liable in the event that information is not disseminated in the delay of time as prescribed by the law and information is withheld. Dogley stressed that same is an offence and is punishable with a fine or a five-year prison sentence.
The "How-To Manual" is also available online and can be downloaded on www.infocom.sc