Marking the highpoint of a training workshop on the usage of the Liberia Freedom of Information Act 2010, participants have by way of elections installed a steering committee of Bong County FOI Advocacy Hub, under the facilitation of the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, (CEMESP) as implementer of the project.
The project is funded by National Endowment for Democracy, (NED), which targeted Civil Society Organizations, Community Radio Journalists and Local Authorities.
CEMESP designed the project to raise the bar from awareness to action in the demand and supply of information as provided under the law.
Like other similar FOI hubs created in Lofa under this project, the Bong County FOI Hub will serve as mouthpiece for the people in filing issue based requests that will be pursued to disclosure and or redress mechanisms. Product of information obtained in this exercise will serve as an advocacy entry point on various local socio-economic and political issues.
At the training workshop, participants were exposed to their obligations under the law, exemption provisions, how to file sound FOI requests and proactive disclosure, among other relevant provisions of the FOI legislation that is deem as having a transformative potential.
Apart from the two workshops conducted first in Lofa and Gbarnga, there were outreach awareness raising and inspirational engagements with members of the public in the Redlight and Westpoint communities in Monrovia.
In all of these engagements participants indicated low understanding of the Act, reinforcing the view that much needs to be done in inspiring people to file requests and those holding information to disclose same.
Another compelling lesson learnt from this project is the fact that the office of the Independent Information Commissioner must be better incentivized to establish branch offices in all counties and the positioning of Information Officers in ministries, departments and agencies, if the dwindling public confidence in the law can be checked.
Whilst stressing the point that the FOI Law is not intended to witch hunt anybody, CEMESP trainers also encouraged participants especially community radios to transmit what they have learnt with a view to reaching more people in remoter setting to grasp the empowerment potential inherent this human rights promoting piece of legislation.
Participants were very engaging, posing interesting questions and comments on a range of issues relative to the FOI law implementation in Liberia.
CEMESP distributed amongst participants the FOI Act and other relevant literatures obtained from the Carter Center Access to Information Project.
In their evaluation participants were unanimous in stating that the training has been beneficial and would help them to do things better