Ignorance of FOI Law Impedes Enjoyment of Right to Information, Says Liberia’s President George Weah

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Mr George Weah
Liberia’s President

Ignorance of the Freedom of Information Law is a great impediment to the exercise and enjoyment of the right to information by citizens, according to Liberia’s President George Weah in a video message on the launch of a publication which he described as documenting an “important piece of history”.

In his message at the launch of “Pounding Pavements, Knocking on Doors”, a publication by the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), documenting the campaign for an international Day on Access to Information, President Weah said Liberia was motivated to sponsor the resolution at the UN General Assembly to designate the Day so as to “empower citizens of the world with information, regardless of the countries that they come from, to enable them to participate in the governance of their societies and to realize their full potential.”

Saying that he was very proud of the role that Liberia, under his leadership, played in the proclamation by the UN General Assembly in 2019 of September 28 as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), he noted that it was very gratifying for Liberia to play a leadership role in the General Assembly by being the lead sponsor of such an important resolution to raise awareness about the importance of the right of access to information around the world.

President Weah said Liberia felt very comfortable assuming such a leadership role because of his Government’s belief in the importance of access to information and its potential to transform societies.

He explained that Liberia has long sought to leverage the important potential of access to information, firstly by acting quickly to adopt a Freedom of Information Act in 2010, thus becoming the first country in West Africa to pass a Law to grant members of the public access to government-held information.

In addition, President Weah said, Liberia’s FOI Act has also been assessed as one of the best in the world, which is a clear indication of his country’s “deep commitment to empower our citizens with information to enable them to participate meaningfully in the governance of their country.”

He remarked that it was for the same reason that his Government was motivated to sponsor the UN General Assembly resolution.

According to President Weah, “On the domestic front, we continue to find ways to improve public awareness and the implementation of our Freedom of Information Act because we have come to realize that widespread ignorance of the Law, which is a reality in many countries, can also be a great impediment to the exercise and enjoyment of the right to information by citizens.’

He expressed his conviction that the celebration of 28 of September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information by Governments and non-governmental actors around the globe would greatly contribute to raising the much-needed awareness about the importance of the right to information throughout the world.

President Weah congratulated the African civil society actors, including those from Liberia, who worked with his Government to make the resolution a reality, saying he would particularly like to “express our gratitude and appreciation to members of the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information for their support and commitment to our shared vision and for their tireless efforts to ensure the realization of the dream.”