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News : Local Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017 - 11:02:30 PM

Groups Question Government’s Commitment to Freedom of Information
By Organization for Responsible Governance
Apr 18, 2017 - 9:00:11 PM

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A Young 'We March' protester joins the #FacesOfFOIA movement calling for a strong, fair, Freedom of Information Act. She was one of thousands who raised their voice and signed letters and petitions for the cause.

Urge Voters to demand Freedom of Information

NASSAU, New Providence – Unbelievably, yet another election season has come with no enacted or enforced Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We, as a coalition of civil society and private industry groups working toward a True, Fair Freedom of Information Act, and representing over 100,000 people, are gravely disappointed that the government has again neglected to enact the FOIA. We see this not only as a lack of political will, but also as a lack of commitment to the people’s fundamental right to know on the part of successive administrations and urge the next government to make the enactment of the FOIA a priority.

Through much effort and expense, our coalition worked diligently over the past year to educate and mobilize the public to ensure the passage of The Freedom of Information Bill 2016. After disregarding the bulk of the recommendations that were offered toward ensuring that the FOIA sufficiently represented the interest of the people, the government has failed to bring the FOIA to enactment or set a date to do so. In the weeks prior to the announcement of the General Election date 2017, our groups consistently tried to ascertain from the relevant departments, the progress and date of enactment of the FOIA. Our efforts were met with vague answers and no results.

As the current government has had five years to draft, consult, pass and enact a viable FOIA, the prospect of a currently un-enacted FOIA until the next government takes power, signifies insincerity and a failure of leadership on their part. Given this, any current campaign claims of support for transparency and accountability ring hollow.

Freedom of Information is a subset of freedom of speech – without a functional FOIA the government of The Bahamas is in breach of fundamental human rights according the United Nations and human rights groups across the globe. We encourage voters not to stand for this and to join the call for Freedom of Information. Those that live and work in The Bahamas are urged to demand from candidates seeking their vote a commitment to enact and enforce the Freedom of Information Act once elected.

Likewise, we implore candidates truly committed to the rights of the people they serve to commit to the immediate enactment of Freedom of Information should they gain office, because the continued lack of Freedom of Information is an affront to our democracy.

The coalition of groups advocating for FOIA includes: Citizens for a Better Bahamas, The Nassau Institute, ReEarth, The Organization for Responsible Governance, Save the Bays, Waterkeepers Bahamas, The Bahamas Press Club, It’s Our Turn, Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, Bahamas Federation of Retailers, HeadKnowles, Civil Society Bahamas, Rise Bahamas, Young Marine Explorers, We The People, BREEF, Our Carmichael, The Coalition to Save Clifton, and Citizens for Justice.

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