The seed for International Right to Know Day was planted on September 28, 2002, the last day of a Freedom of Information litigation conference held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Representatives of Freedom of Information (FOI) organisations from 15 countries took part – Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, India, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Rumania, Slovakia, South Africa, and the USA, as well as representatives of international organisations active in the FOI field.
Jamaica’s Access to Information Act
International Right to Know Day celebrates the right of individual access to information held by public bodies and marks the benefits of transparent, accessible government. It is observed by more than 80 countries, including Jamaica. The government of Jamaica guaranteed the public’s right to access official government documents by the passage of the Access to Information Act in 2002. The Act gives the public a general right of access to official government information which would otherwise be inaccessible, including documents from Cabinet, which were previously listed as classified.
The Act aims to reinforce fundamental democratic principles vital to:
- Improved, more transparent government
- Greater accountability of government to its people
- Increased public influence on and participation in national decision making
- Knowledge of the functions of government
The Access to Information Unit leads and guides the implementation and administration of the Access to Information Act, which was passed in June 2002. The Unit falls within the Information Division, Office of the Prime Minister.
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Why Celebrate International Right to Know Day?
- Access to information provides individuals with knowledge to address public issues scrutinize government and become active participants in the democratic process.
- Access to information has revealed and clarified the basis for government decisions, disclosed environmental and health dangers and shed light on error, mismanagement and illegal activities.
- Access to information has required improved records management, prompted routine disclosure to information, promoted the duty to assist the public and resulted in better government service and efficiencies.
- Access to information requires vigilance. Beyond simply having access to information legislation there must be a commitment to a culture and spirit of openness. This includes staff and public awareness of access to information principles and appropriate resources for implementation.
- There have been many successes as a result of access to information and there are many improvements to consider.