UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

04/24/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/24/2024 07:33

Guinea-Bissau: UNESCO facilitates technical debate on access to information legislation

From 17 to 23 April, UNESCO Dakar organised a technical workshop on the drafting of a law on access to information in Guinea-Bissau.

The main objective of the workshop was to support the participatory process of drafting an Access to Information Law in line with international standards, working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations system in Guinea-Bissau.

Citizens are deprived of their right to participate in the political decision-making process and to hold their elected representatives accountable in the absence of such legislation. Furthermore, access to information is key to combating disinformation and misinformation and empowering citizens to make informed decisions on public issues.

The workshop was facilitated by three legal experts specialising in access to information. It welcomed a wide range of experts and stakeholders nominated by the Ministry of Justice. Participants included focal points from the Ministry of Justice, information officers from various ministries, representatives of public bodies, the National Library and Archives, human rights civil society organisations, the media, women's organisations, disabled people's organisations and the League for the Protection of Human Rights.

Ernesto Correia, Vice President of the National Association of Consumers of Goods and Services, stressed the urgency of making the law available to the public, saying that it would strengthen democracy and enable citizens to access the information they need.

Bacari Baldé, representing the journalists' union, underlined the importance of the access to information law for the journalism profession. He said: "This law will be of great benefit to our profession. We face the challenge of a lack of reliable sources of information, so the law not only respects the citizen's right to information, but also helps those who work with information in the public interest".

In addition, Brigitte Mendes, from the Federation of Disabled People's Rights Organisations, emphasised the importance of the law in safeguarding democracy and ensuring that the rights of all citizens are respected within the legal framework, thus contributing to a fairer and more just society for all.

Throughout the workshop, participants stressed the importance of this legislation as a fundamental element in promoting confidence in democratic processes. They were actively engaged in evaluating the draft law and providing input to ensure its alignment with international standards and the Constitution of Guinea-Bissau.

It should be noted that work on this bill was officially launched on June 29, 2023, following a workshop organized by UNESCO to build the capacity of journalists, civil society organizations and public administration on access to information.