MRA kicked off “An Hour with Media Rights Agenda” for the year 2017 with a five-part series on FOI and its application to different sectors in the society.
The first edition in the series was on January 9, 2016 and the discussion centred on Freedom of Information and the Health Sector. It was anchored by Idowu Adewale and featured Ms Morisola Alaba and Ms Eseohe Ojo discussing how the FOI Act can help monitor the health sector and ensure transparency as well as become useful in ensuring enlightenment and adequate health education for citizens when there is disclosure of information held by public institutions in the health sector, among other issues.
The edition covered the legal backing for the right to health both nationally and internationally, how health related information can be accessed using the FOI Act, service delivery in the health sector in Nigeria and how the Act can be used to enhance service delivery.
Ms Morisola Alaba stated that “Everyone should have the right to enjoy the best attainable health and also the right to access healthcare facilities when necessary. So, every person has a right to health without any exclusion.”
The edition also spelt out the type of information which can be requested and explained that compliance with proactive disclosure obligations by public institutions is another way by which the public can access information.
During this edition, citizens and civil society organisations were encouraged to “take up the challenge of ensuring effective implementation of the Act as regards compliance with proactive disclosure” by monitoring whether the Proactive publications requirements are being complied with by public institutions and in particular, whether the categories of information stipulated in the Act are being proactively published, whether they are being widely disseminated through various means and whether they are being reviewed and updated periodically and whenever changes occur.
The episode highlighted that “there are certain types of information that people need to enable them access public services, particularly in the health sector” and encouraged service providers in the sector to proactively disclose these types of information to enable citizens access these services while also sensitising citizens, media practitioners and civil society organisations on the important role they play in enforcing compliance with and effective implementation of all aspects of the Act and practical steps they can take to ensure this.
The episode came to a close with Ms Morisola Alaba providing a list of public institutions at the federal level including ministries, departments and agencies that play different roles and may be relevant in the health sector even though they are not typical healthcare providers. This included institutions that play implementing or regulatory roles or formulate policies related to the provision of health and medical services.
The next edition of the programme featured an all-female panel on January 16, 2016 covering Freedom of Information and Women. It was anchored by Ms Eseohe Ojo and two lawyers, Ms Morisola Alaba and Ms Chioma Nwaodike, were featured as guests.
The episode covered the relevance of freedom of information in the promotion and protection of women’s rights, how the Freedom of Information Act can be useful to the women in a society and used to address specific issues or challenges that they encounter.
It kicked off with salient questions such as “Why women? Is Freedom of Information more important to or for women?”
Ms Chioma Nwaodike explained that “there are certain sectors of society that are more vulnerable or require specific information or attention. Women happen to be one of such groups in the society and they face peculiar challenges despite the fact that they often constitute approximately half of the population in any society, and sometimes, slightly more.”
She further pointed out that “around the world, women frequently suffer from higher rates of poverty and lower rates of education and are more susceptible to the adverse effects of corruption. Domestic violence and trafficking in young women and girls, inadequate participation in governance and community affairs, and gender inequality across a range of issues and sectors are some of the many issues that need to be effectively addressed to ensure women empowerment.” And that “although, many programmes and projects are being organized to address these issues, there is the question of how effective they are and what significant impact or difference these programmes and projects made. All of these issues can be addressed by providing women with access to meaningful information.”
Other issues discussed include the current state of women’s rights in Nigeria, specific issues the FOI Act can be used to address, how the Act can be used to address these issues, the benefits of the Act particularly for women’s rights, kinds of information that can be requested for using the Act and obstacles women face in accessing information.
The episode then delved into the enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act as a means to ensuring that critical information is made available to women or on women’s issues when necessary.
It also looked at practical steps and actions such as sensitisation and awareness, monitoring and information gathering, amongst others which can be carried out using the Act with particular relevance to women’s rights.
The episode came to a close with a listing of public institutions with particular relevance to women’s rights and issues as well as some that play different roles that affect women including formulating laws or policies related to women’s rights.
Ms Alaba noted that although the list provided “an example of institutions that might have information on women’s rights issues or play other fundamental roles that affect women, no public institution is irrelevant to this sector. Even highlighting the ratio of female/-male members of staff, their salaries and levels would be a useful exercise.”
Subsequent parts of the series will cover Freedom of Information and Public Finance Management; Freedom of Information and Agriculture; and Freedom of Information and Youth.
An Hour with Media Rights Agenda which premiered on October 3, 2016 in collaboration with Blackface Radio is an enlightenment programme which is broadcast every Monday from 4:30pm to 5:30pm.
The programme aims to sensitise and raise awareness on relevant issues such as freedom of expression, internet rights and freedoms, the Open Government Partnership, press and media freedom, freedom of information, amongst other issues.