EU, TCC to Launch New FOI Project in Liberia

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“The right of access to information is a cornerstone of transparency, accountability, public participation, and voice..." The Carter Center says. (Image Courtesy: Telegraph.co.uk)

The Carter Center (TCC) Liberia office, in collaboration with the European Union (EU), is scheduled to launch a new one-year Freedom of Information (FOI) project in the country.

The project, according to a statement the Carter Center released in Monrovia, will advance government employees’ understanding of right-to-information law and their capacity to respond to requests for information in any of the government ministries and agencies.

The event comes as part of the celebration of this year’s International Right to Know Day, which is September 28.

Under the theme, “Increasing Transparency in the Public Sector through Freedom-of-Information Training,” the project is aligned to the New European Consensus on Development, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically focusing on promoting accountable and transparent institutions, including participatory decision-making and public access to information.

As part of the project, TCC will develop freedom-of-information training materials and curricula in leading public-sector training institutes, such as the Liberia Institute of Public Administration, the National Police Training Academy, and the James A. A. Pierre Judicial Institute at the Temple of Justice.

TCC also will engage academic institutions, including the University of Liberia’s Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law on Capitol Hill in the creation and adoption of the new freedom-of-information curricula and training courses and in serving as instructors.

“The right of access to information is a cornerstone of transparency, accountability, public participation, and voice, and is essential for engaging citizens and improving government effectiveness and efficiency,” the release said.

Many believe that the Liberian media environment improved in 2012 due to a decrease in libel cases, efforts to repeal defamation laws, and a reduction in violence against journalists, thanks to the passage of the FOI law.

In July 2012, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the second African head of state to endorse the Table Mountain Declaration, which calls on African governments to abolish criminal defamation laws. In late November that year, the Press Union of Liberia submitted a draft bill to the Legislature, the body responsible to abolish such laws.

Prior to the enactment of the law libel charges leveled against media houses, the compensation sought and imposed in civil cases were often excessive, leading to severe financial difficulties for journalists and their media outlets, and encouraging self-censorship in the media.

Since 2009, TCC has partnered with government and civil society to advance access to information for all Liberians.

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