Event Reports

Training for Journalists and Human Rights Activists on access to Information

From 16th - 18th April 2018, a workshop on Access to Information Act was held in Mbarara district hosted by KAS in cooperation with Hub for Investigative Media (HIM) to widen the knowledge of Journalists and Human Rights activists about the provisions of the constitutional instrument.

The training workshop enhanced and inculcated a greater understanding of Access to Information Act 2005 and regulations of 2011 among journalists from western Uganda.

The Act was enacted to promote the access to information, promote an efficient, effective, transparent and accountable Government and enable the public to effectively access and participate in decisions that affect them as Citizens of the Country.

The importance of access to information is especially present for Journalists and Human Rights Defenders, who form part of the critical side of the right-holders. They are therefore duty bound to assert their obligation of making the government accountable through accessing information held by ministries, departments and agencies in line with the available legislation and international instruments.

The Workshop addressed the lack of awareness about the existence of these laws, which narrows the possibility of enjoying these fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution.

Easy access and availability of information is therefore desirable and ideal in promotion of good governance, rule of law and human rights. The media is an important facet in information dissemination and Journalists as well as Human Right Defenders are key players. On this note, Diana Namanda who facilitated the session reiterated that “having knowledge about the access to information law and making the best use of it is a standard mark of professional journalism”.

This observation was supported by one of the participants, Namanya Job, a senior radio journalist from Kabale district who emphasized the need for journalists to step up and read the Access to Information Act because it will enable them to have the constitutional mandate of holding public servants accountable.

The Workshops aimed at enabling Jjournalists and Human Rights Defenders generate knowledge, application and usage of the law as the vital channel to ensure that the government remains accountable to the public through disclosing information on request and pro-actively.

In addition, the training session offered an excellent opportunity for open dialogue, constructive critique, self-reflection as well as concretizing the responsibilities of the right-holders. Supported by interactive communication and community games, the participants were able to interact as a group, encourage dialogue and stay focused on what the Act of Information actually conveys.

To be informed, information must be available and easily accessible, starting with understanding the ATI. To overcome challenges in the implementation of the law the participants agreed, that a good understanding of the ATI and the responsibility that comes with it is key. A knowledgeable society is an empowered community.

By the end of the workshop, all the participants did not only know about all the bureaucratic procedures of accessing information from public offices, but they were also equipped with more skills and knowledge to enable the successful application of the law. As Mercy Birungi, one of the participants noted, “It’s pathetic I didn’t know about this law and its provisions. From today onwards, I will use the skills and knowledge from this training to request for public information and relay this information effectively to the public so that they can hold their leaders accountable”.