Participants at the Access to Information Seminar at Juba Regency Hotel. 25 O6 19 © Yokwe
Juba, 25 June 2018: Access to information is a fundamental right as indicated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. To contribute towards ensuring the operationalization of the South Sudan Right of Access to Information Act, 2013, UNESCO and UNMISS Rule of Law Advisory Section in close collaboration with the South Sudan Information Commission and the Africa Freedom of Information Centre organized a one-day seminar on Access to Information: Comparative Practices and Opportunities in Juba.
Over eighty (80) stakeholders from the Information Commission, Ministry of Information, Parliament, independent oversight commissions, lawyers, civil society and media association representatives participated in the one-day seminar. The seminar, brought together like-minded partners to discuss the importance of free access to information for good governance, nation building, democracy and accountability and also suggest actions on operationalization of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2013.
In his opening remarks, Hon. Nicodemus Ajaik Bior, Commissioner, South Sudan Information Commission, urged stakeholders to step-up support to enhance implementation of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2013. He noted the need for massive awareness raising campaigns on the right of access to information for citizens most of whom are not informed about the Act. He further mentioned that steps towards development of the Commission’s strategic plan are underway and the working document will provide a road map on how to effectively operationalize the Access to Information Act.
While, Ms. Doreen Loboka, UNESCO Communication National Specialist, echoed that efforts needed to be doubled to make freedom of information and access to information a priority both at policy and practice levels in the country. She called on for the execution of actions that are aimed at reducing the information accessibility gaps that are existent in the country to ensure that no one is left behind.
Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa, Executive Director for the Africa Freedom of Information Centre during his presentation encouraged the government and other institutions to practice proactive disclosure of information as a mechanism to build trust between citizens and the government.
Additionally, Hon. Justine Alier De Mayen, Undersecretary, Ministry of Information, Communication, Telecommunication and Postal Services and Guest of Honor, emphasized the importance of enabling access to information for citizens especially during the current nation building process. He stated that “…when information is availed, the citizens are able to hold the government accountable and through information, rule of law and democracy can be strengthened”. He added that the government was committed to ensuring that the citizens enjoyed their rights such as the right of freedom of expression and access to information as designated in the South Sudan Transitional Constitution, 2011 Article 24.
UNESCO has been supporting the South Sudan Information Commission since its inception in 2016 towards fast-tracking implementation of the Right of Access to Information Act, 2013. UNESCO will continue partnership with the Information Commission to operationalize its 3-year strategic plan that is being finalized with technical assistance from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre.
UNESCO is dedicated to promoting freedom of information and access to information and considers public access to information a key component to the achievement of openness, transparency and accountability for any given institution in the public and private sectors.