FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CIVIL SOCIETY AND PRIVATE SECTOR COME TOGETHER TO DEMAND ‘TRUE’ FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
Launch joint public awareness campaign Empowering Citizens to Act
Nassau, Bahamas (September 17, 2016) — In response to the Government’s announcement last week that a final version of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2015 will be tabled in Parliament soon, the pressure is mounting for a ‘true’ FOIA.
Seventeen Civil Society and Private Industry Groups are strengthening the call for the Government to include recommendations proposed by the groups to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. They are mobilizing to engage and educate the public about the importance of this ACT and it’s a timely passage. The passage and enactment of a strong and fair Freedom of Information Act will stand to benefit citizens and residents, private businesses, civil society organizations, industry associations, media outlets, unions and, ultimately, government.
The groups involved in the push include Citizens for a Better Bahamas, We The People, Organization for Responsible Governance, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer's Confederation, The Abaco Chamber of Commerce, Save The Bays, The Nassau Institute, reEarth, The Bahamas Federation of Retailers, Civil Society Bahamas, The HeadKnowles Foundation, Waterkeepers Bahamas, It’s Our Turn, Grand Bahamas Civil Rights Association, Our Carmichael, The Bahamas Press Club and Young Marine Explorers.
The group formed in reaction to Minister of Education, Jerome Fitzgerald’s recent announcement that he had received a final report from the Government’s appointed FOIA Committee and Cabinet would be reviewing it to determine the final version of the Bill that would be tabled in Parliament. Although he referenced that the Bill is expected to be tabled before Parliament, there has been no information as to which recommendations have been included in the report or what basis Cabinet would use for review. A letter was sent to Minister Fitzgerald by the group requesting a meeting to discuss the Bill, its contents and its tabling. No response has yet been issued.
On September 17, the groups launched a joint public education campaign on line featuring a public petition to endorse passage of the bill with suggested recommendations from the groups. They will expand the effort in the coming weeks to include radio, television as well as print and social media. Additionally, the public is encouraged to reach out to MPs. “Our ads will ask Bahamians to push their representatives in Parliament to adopt the recommendations and pass the Bill” remarks Joseph Darville,
“Each of our organizations share a hope that a “True” FOIA is tabled, passed and enacted in the coming year and is not further delayed.” states Lemarque Campbell, Chairman of Citizens for a Better Bahamas. The organizations are taking all steps to ensure continued public input and awareness of the importance of a fair and strong FOIA. In addition to requesting a meeting with Minister Jerome Fitzgerald to discuss the bill, its contents and its tabling, the civil society and public industry groups are forming small teams
to meet with the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition and select Members of Parliament to review the recommendations and prepare them for the tabling of the Bill.
According to Lana Lee Brogdon of Organization for Responsible Governance “This is a matter of great importance to The Bahamas and it will take the energy, input and cooperation of all those who live and care about this country to bring it to fruition.” Gina Knowles, Co-founder of HeadKnowles Foundation adds “We all have a stake in this effort and everyone is encouraged to join us and lend your voice and sign the petition.”
For more information on the Freedom of Information Act petition go to www.campaign242.org/foia_bahamas. To review the letter to Minister Fitzgerald and the full list of recommendations visit www.orgbahamas.com/resources/.
Matthew Aubry, Executive Director Organization for Responsible Governance email@example.com