Jamaica

What's New

  • 7 January 2016

    Jamaican Government Promises Amendments

    The Jamaican government is preparing freedom of information reform legislation, says Phillip Paulwell, the leader of government business in the House of Representatives, according to an article by Daraine Luton in The Gleaner. “This is four years after Parliament voted for the amendments to take place, but clearly, greater access to information is not a […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 7 May 2015

    Jamaica Minister Pledges Introduction of ATI Bill

    Jamaica’s minister with responsibility for information, Sandrea Falconer, has said that a new Access to Information Act will be tabled and passed in the current financial year. Falconer made her comments to The Gleaner, at the same time dismissing opposition assertions that the government was reluctant to propose ATI amendments. Opposition spokeswoman on Information Olivia […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
Be Sociable, Share!

News Archive

  • 26 February 2015

    Jamaican Activist Urges Donor Push on Transparency

    Foreign aid should be more directly tied to governments’ efforts to improve their transparency and donors should place more emphasis on greater grassroots involvement, according to Aylair Livingstone, a Jamaican transparency activist who presented an overview of access in the Caribbean at a World Bank webinar. Livingston summarized the freedom of information situation in the […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 20 November 2014

    New Tool Examines Jamaica’s Development Projects

    By Carole Excell and Stephanie Ratte The authors work for World Resources Institute. Excell is Project Director of WRI’s Access Initiative. Ratte is Project Coordinator/Research Analyst with the Governance of Forests Initiative. Portland Bight (PBPA) is Jamaica’s largest protected area, extending more than 200 square miles of land and 524 miles of sea. The region is home to […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 30 September 2013

    Jamaican Government Plans New Communications Policy

    Jamaica’s minister with responsibility for information, Sandrea Falconer, said the government will propose ways to strengthen access to information in the country. “I am very pleased to inform you that soon, we will be tabling our new communications policy,” she said, according to a media report.  “We have just done the rough draft [and] we […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 25 March 2013

    Caribbean FOI Network Formed at Jamaica Meeting

    A Caribbean network on freedom of information was created at a conference held recently in Kingston, Jamaica. Governments, civil society, and media announced plans to launch the Caribbean network  “to support processes to improve standards for access to information in the region,” according to a statement. Representatives from 11 Caribbean countries attended a two-day “Regional Conference on Freedom of […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 17 June 2011

    Jamaican Panel Recommends Ways to Improve Access Law

    The Jamaican Parliament has recently passed the report of the committee that reviewed the Access to Information Act, reports Carolyn Gomes, chairperson of the ATI Advisory Stakeholders Committee. “This report recommends significant strengthening of the provisions of our Act, including the creation of a statutory body, the Access to Information Unit, which is to be […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 17 March 2006

    Jamaican lawmakers debate sanctions for non-compliance with Access to Information Act

    During a hearing of the joint select committee of Parliament reviewing the success of the Access to Information (ATI) Act, Senator Trevor Monroe called attention to what he saw as a gap in the act: “we ought to plug the gap and apply exemplary sanctions to any authority that refuses to abide by this law […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 28 September 2005

    International Right to Know Day 2005

    Since 2002, freedom of information advocates around the world have been working together to promote the right of access to information for all people and recognize the benefits of transparent and accountable governments. We use this day as a way to share ideas, strategies and success stories about the development of freedom of information laws […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 7 February 2004

    Jamaicans Using Access to Information Act

    The Jamaica Observer reports that Jamaica’s landmark Access to Information Act has been getting plenty of use since it went into effect January 5. “Commendably, media houses are among the earliest applicants for official documents,” said information minister, Burchell Whiteman, noting that 56 applications were received in the first 24 days of the act. Whiteman, […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 1 November 2003

    JAMAICA: Senate Passes Access to Information Bill

    The Jamaica Observer reports that the Senate has finally passed The Access to Information Amendment Bill and the accompanying regulations after several weeks of debate fueled by the opposition. In the end, the modified Bill was passed unanimously. The Act, which is aimed at bringing greater transparency to Government by giving the public access to […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 4 October 2003

    JAMAICA: More Delays on Access to Information

    The Jamaica Gleaner reports that the Jamaican Senate will not be debating the amendment to the Access to Information Act until the regulations governing its long-awaited implementation have been presented. The amendment, entitled the Access to Information Amendment Act 2003, was however tabled in the Upper House yesterday (October 3). Last week the Government announced […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 13 September 2003

    JAMAICA: Access to Information Access Law Will Have Major Impact

    The Jamaican Observer reports on the Access to Information Act which goes into effect on October 1. According to members of The Carter Centre, “the rules of the game” in government have changed by giving Jamaicans access to official documents that previously were inaccessible. “This is a law that can change lives, and it can […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 9 June 2003

    JAMAICA: Information Act on Target

    The Jamaican Observer reports that the first phase of the Access to Information Act is still on target for its October deadline, according to Information Minister Burchell Whiteman. We have a hard-working and effective unit, within the archives division of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), working overtime to provide the co-ordination, direction and […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 18 January 2003

    JAMAICA Government Officials Go Back to School

    In advance of the actual implementation of the Jamaican Access to Information Act, the Jamaica Observer reports that over 400 government officials will partake in the initial leg of a four-month-long training program. “This process of formal training of public sector workers seeks to prepare them to effectively and efficiently handle requests for government information […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 29 June 2002

    JAMAICA: New Disclosure Law Passes

    While the regulations still have to be drafted and approved, and the Civil Service still needs to be adequately trained, the Jamaican Senate yesterday passed the Access to Information Bill. According to a news report in the Jamaican Observer, the passage of the information bill by the Senate concludes a 10-year process to provide the […]

    Be Sociable, Share!
  • 1 June 2002

    World Bank Begins Pilot Programs on Disclosure

    Some 20 countries are about to embark on pilot programs with the World Bank in which they will disclose and disseminate more information than they have in the past – that is, more than what Bank policy currently requires. The exact dimensions of this effort will become clearer once the Bank makes an official announcement […]

    Be Sociable, Share!

links

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

Access to Information Act 2002

 

GOVERNMENT

Access to Information Unit, Jamaica Archives and Records Department, Office of the Prime Minister

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Jamaicans for Justice

 

OTHER RESOURCES

Access to Information Act Guide (Jamaicans for Justice)

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Click to view.

Text from the freedominfo.org Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Access to Information Act was adopted in July 2002.(1) Initially, the Act was to be implemented across the whole of government, but in December 2004 the Act was amended to permit the Act to be phased into effect in four phases, starting in January 2004.(2) All Ministries had implemented the Act by May 2005, and all departments and agencies were prepared for implementation by July 2005.(3)

The Governor-General, security and intelligence services, the judicial function of courts, and bodies as decreed by the Minister of Information are excluded from the scope of the Act.

Documents are exempt from disclosure if they would prejudice security, defense, or international relations; contain information from a foreign government communicated in confidence; is a submission to the Cabinet or a Cabinet Decision or record of any deliberation of the Cabinet (except for factual information); are law enforcement documents that would endanger or could reasonably be expected to endanger lives, prejudice investigations, or reveal methods or sources; the document is privileged or would be a breach of confidence, contempt of court of infringe the privileges of Parliament; contains opinions, advice or recommendations or a record of consultations or deliberations for Cabinet decisions that are not factual, scientific or technical in nature or if the release is not in the public interest; would harm the national economy; would reveal trade secrets or other confidential commercial information; could be expected to result in damage, destruction, or interference with historical sites, national monuments or endangered species if the release is not in the public interest; or relating to the personal affairs of any person alive or dead. The Prime Minister can issue a conclusive certificate that the document is a Cabinet record. Other responsible Ministers can issue a certificate exempting documents relating to national security, law enforcement or national economy. Exemptions are 20 years or less as the minister decrees. Individuals can also apply to correct documents that contain personal information that is incorrect if the documents are used for administrative purposes.

Appeals are heard internally by the Permanent Secretary or principal officer of the Ministry or the Minister for documents subject to a certificate. Second appeals then go to an Appeal Tribunal set up specifically to hear complaints under the Act. The Tribunal was established in December 2003 but has been slow to take up its mandate. The ATI Stakeholders Advisory Group (see below for details) has reported that problems faced by requestors going to the Tribunal have included: lengthy delays in receiving acknowledgement of the appeal from the Tribunal; lengthy delays in getting dates set for hearings; excessively formalistic, onerous and legalistic procedures; short notice periods for hearings; and onerous procedural requirements. The Group has also observed that difficulties faced by the Tribunal include: all current members being employed elsewhere, which has led to severe scheduling difficulties sittings of the Tribunal; difficulty getting draft regulations amended; and lack of a designated Secretariat.(4)

Acts done to illegally prevent the disclosure of information can be punished by fine and imprisonment.

The Access to Information Unit (5) of the Jamaica Archives and Records Department in the Office of the Prime Minister was formed in January 2003 to overseeing the implementation of the Act.(6) The Unit provides training and guidance to both agencies and the public on the Act and is working with NGOs such as the Carter Center. By March 2004, the Unit had trained 4339 public employees and others on the Act. The ATI Unit also set up an ATI Association of Administrators, which brought together department ATI officials to discuss implementation challenges and successes, and set up an ATI Stakeholders Advisory Group made up of the ATI Unit Director and a cross section of business, media and NGO representatives who gave feedback on implementation.(7) However, in July 2005 both the Executive Officer and Public Relations Officer resigned, and the Government has not filled these positions.(8) This has significantly slowed the work of the Unit.

The ATI Stakeholders Advisory Group reports that 468 requests were received and 165 were granted full access in the first year of operation of the Act. The ATI Unit reported in March 2005 that the Appeal Tribunal initially received ten appeals against three Public Authorities, namely, the Bank of Jamaica (5 appeals), the Ministry of Finance & Planning (4 appeals) and the Office of the Prime Minister (1 appeal).(9) However, Jamaicans for Justice have reported that by early 2006 the Appeals Tribunal has only managed to sit on two days to hear three appeals.(10)

The Act explicitly requires that the law is reviewed by a parliamentary committee within two years of coming into force. A Joint Select Committee on Access to Information, chaired by Information Minister Trevor Munroe, was accordingly set up in December 2005, and began hearings in January 2006. The Committee completed its hearings in March 2005. However, a new Information Minister was appointed shortly after and it is expected that the Committee will begin another round of hearings before finalizing its recommendations. A number of amendments were proposed to the Committee to narrow the scope of the law, including amendments to remove Cabinet and the Bank of Jamaica from its scope. Civil society organizations made representations to the Committee seeking amendments to the law and operational changes to facilitate better access.(11)

The Archives Act (1982) provides for access to documents over 30 years old. Minister of Information Colin Campbell announced in June 2002 that the first set of Cabinet Documents from the ten years following independence would be made available at the archives.

The Official Secrets Act 1911 remains in force and applies to the unauthorized disclosure of documents. Minister of Justice AJ Nicholson said in April 2003 that the Government would move to abolish the Act following implementation of the ATI Act.(12)

2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results - Jamaica

NOTES

1. Access to Information Act 2002. http://www.jis.gov.jm/special_sections/ATI/ATIACT.pdf

2. See update from the Cabinet Office of Jamaica at http://www.cabinet.gov.jm/accessInfo.asp

3. See http://www.ziplaw.com/news/archives/000355.html and http://www.jamaicansforjustice.org/ATI/about.htm

4. Access to Information Advisory Stakeholders Committee Submission to Parliamentary Select Committee Conducting the Review of the Access to Information Act 2002, February 2006.

5. See also http://www.jard.gov.jm/ati/

6. Homepage: http://www.jis.gov.jm/special_sections/ATI/default.html

7. Aylair Livingstone, Director ATI Unit, The Implementation Of The Access To Information Act - The Jamaican Experience: Challenges & Successes, 2005.
8. Carolyn Gomes, Executive Director, Jamaicans for Justice (2006) "Reviewing the Access to Information Act in Jamaica", CHRI Newsletter.

9. Link
10. Carolyn Gomes, Executive Director, Jamaicans for Justice (2006) "Reviewing the Access to Information Act in Jamaica", CHRI Newsletter.

11. Click here to access these submissions.

12. Access to Information Act to be Implemented on October 1, JIS, 25 April 2003.

 

 

Measuring Openness

Global Right to Information Rating
A country-by-country rating of laws by the Centre for Democracy and Law and Access Info.

Freedom House
The Freedom in the World report.

World Bank
Worldwide Governance Indicators

Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index
Measures perceptions of the degree of corruption.

Reporters Without Borders
The Press Freedom Index.