The Swedish Ambassador accredited near Monrovia, Madam Lena Nordström, has cautioned Liberians to make maximum use of the Freedom of Information Act whenever they seek credible information from relevant government institutions.
Madam Nordström said the principles of democratic governance include openness, transparency and participation, which must be embraced to build confidence, especially in seeking information.
Ambassador Nordström made the remarks yesterday when she served as keynote speaker at the program marking the celebration of the ‘Right to Know Day’ held at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
The Right to Know Day was organized by the Independent Information Commission (IIC) in collaboration with the Carter Center and other partners, and was attended by officials from various government ministries, agencies, as well as students from various high schools in Montserrado County.
“Liberians have the right to request, receive, review, reproduce, and retain records and documents held by public bodies and private entities performing public functions, or receiving public funding,” Ambassador Nordström said.
“Non-discrimination is an important aspect of Liberian Constitution, and commitment as a member of the international community since 2010, when Liberia enacted the Freedom of Information Act,” she added.
She said it is important for Liberia to focus on the implementation of this important human rights issue that addresses both women and men’s access to information; and that all groups, regardless of age, gender, location, ability, region, religion, and ethnicity, are provided equal access in the promotion and protection of the right of access to information.
She stressed the need to ensure that women, men and girls enjoy their fundamental human rights, which is both an obligation within the framework of Liberia’s international commitment and a prerequisite for reaching broader goals on peace, security, and sustainable development.
“Do the citizens and media exercise their right to access public documents? Do they get responsibility for domestic tasks?” she asked, adding there is fear of retaliation or negative branding for women who dared to enter public agencies to seek information about their rights.
In his remarks, Mark Bedor Wla-Freeman, Commissioner of the Independent Information Commission (IIC), thanked the government and its partners for the level of support given to his institution that adequately empowered it to embark on the campaign to sensitize citizens across the country on their right to know.
He said: “We received some financial support from the Carter Center that we used to carry out various programs in six main counties, but we anticipate more support from our partners in order to enhance our work at the Commission.”