Opinion

INFORMATION ACCESS IS VITAL

By Opio Jackson

It is very important for citizens to have access to information so that they get the right message instead of relying on rumors.

Before the birth of journalism, it was the work of the traditional messengers to deliver messages to the public. But today, with development of technology, everybody can report on anything he or she wants without taking into consideration the consequences of his reporting. The person may post anything on the social media without regarding its impact.

Therefore, the development of technology should make it more demanding for the authorities in public sector to ensure that no information is hidden from the public except when it is confidential. It is important for the citizens to have access to information so as to counterattack the spread of rumors in the society. When you are denied access to information, it is like giving a gateway for rumors to spread further.

Disinformation often comes in when the messenger fail to access the right information or source.

However, access to information is only important in fighting corruption but it also allows citizens to fully exercise their fundamental human rights. It also allows citizens to seek and receive the right information from their government instead of getting it from the outside world.

I am expressing out this point because in many incidences members of the press are made stranded simply because someone there does not want to answer them.

However, sometimes the information may be true but the person concerned with the public information does not want to unveil the information. This is the case in point with the recent shooting of a female student at the University of Juba’s hostel by unknown gunmen. The incident took place on Monday but when the reporter contacted the department concerned, the person in charge neither denied nor confirmed the incident but ordered the journalist to leave his office.

The shooting was a heartbreaking news in Juba on that Monday and I expected the administration to call for a press conference to address the public through the media which did not happen. On the contrary, a journalist who was seeking for the right information from the Students’ Affairs desk was chased away. The reporter tried to reach out to female students at the hostel for comment but the ladies told him that they were instructed by the administration not to talk to the media. This is just one example out of the many in the history.

Freedman of access to information is not a privilege but a right of every citizen as granted in the constitution and other international laws.

By law, public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

The fact that the development of communication technologies has reduced the world to a global village, still some people want to act in a traditional way as if we are still in the Stone Age. Brethren, with the internet existence, we must accept that there is no more secret in this world. I may try to apply necessary rules to restrict any information from going out from my office but somewhere at the edge of the world someone may access it through the internet.

 

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