Liberia, Carter Center Combine on Implementation

2 March 2012

In an effort to help implement the 2010 Liberian freedom of information act, the government Feb. 27 renewed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. -based Carter Center to provide assistance. 

The Carter Center’s work in Liberia is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

 The Carter Center and the Liberian government will conduct projects in seven government ministries and agencies. The Center will continue to provide technical assistance and share the international experiences with regard to FOI implementation and enforcement.

FOIA implementation was addressed In a recent commentary on media and freedom of expression in Liberia was written by Fatoumata Nabie Fofana , Senior Editor at the Daily Observer newspaper., currently a Digital Journalism fellow at the International Academy of Journalism (Intajour) based in Hamburg, Germany. On FOIA, she wrote:

In October 2010, Liberia became the first West African country to pass a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act which gives news-gatherers and the general public unfettered access to public records. The objectives of the Law include:

• Removing restrictions on and establishing procedures for accessing information in the hands of public or private authorities that perform public functions;

• Making the practices and procedures of public authorities available to the public, facilitating the disclosure of information to the public at reasonable cost;

• And guaranteeing the right of every individual to access his or her personal information held by private and public institutions.

Unfortunately, the professed intents and purposes of this law are yet to come to fruition. The Press Union of Liberia recently expressed grave disappointment over the denial by the Criminal Court ‘A’ to provide certain documents in its possession under the Freedom of Information Act of Liberia. The Union said it was far beyond 60 days since it requested the Court to provide copies of the species of evidence presented by government’s lawyers in the case against three media entities that were seized on allegation of broadcasting ‘hate messages.’

While describing the Court’s denial as a bad example for the implementation of the law, the Union urged the government to remove the misgivings that the FOI was a mere publicity stunt. It may be recalled that on November 28, 2011, the PUL filed an FOI request to the Court to serve it copies of the evidence received from government prosecutors. The Court acknowledged receipt of the request on December 8 and indicated its willingness “to produce the said evidence requested for…” but only after the Union had gone public on the Court’s silence.

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