Secretary-Treasurer of the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), Kertiste Augustus, has called on the Dominica Media and Communication Association (DMCA) to pursue the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act for Dominica.
Augustus made the call while delivering the featured address at the DMCA AGM which was held recently.
“You must push for and advocate for the introduction of a Freedom of Information Act. This will help to strengthen democracy in Dominica as the public will have an avenue to know what is going on,” Augustus said. “This will require much debate and dialogue. However it will be a plus if the government sees the wisdom of discussing it fully and then taking it to parliament for legislation.”
A Freedom of Information Act is generally, a piece of legislation that grants public access to documents or other data in the possession of a government agency or public authority, unless the information falls into a category that is specifically excluded from the terms of the legislation.
The call for the enactment of freedom of information legislation in Dominica has been made before. Media owner, Tim Durand, while addressing a media award ceremony in 2015 on the “The Role of Journalism in a Democracy”, made the case for the enactment of such legislation.
“We depend now on the generosity and the good will of our political leaders to make themselves available to us when we require information about issues in the country for on-passing to the public,” Durand told his audience.“And my recommendation which is nothing new…I think there is need for us to consider the Freedom of Information Act.”
But the matter has remained unattended despite persistent complaints by some of Dominica’s independent media outlets, about the difficulty they face in accessing information from the country’s political directorate and other government and public authorities.
Augustus, in his presentation to DMCA, also warned the journalists that the advent of social media had made it difficult for mainstream media.
“Social media presents a challenge and an opportunity to you as media workers; it threatens to undermine your ability and the relevance of mainstream media. If you are unable to deal with the pace of social media you may very well be in danger of losing your relevance.”
Augustus stated that social media also provides journalists with the opportunity to rethink and reorganize what they do on a daily basis.
“As media practitioners, you must be able to regulate yourself. Your organization should move with some speed to set up some sort of regulatory mechanism to guide the behaviour of your members and media workers in general,” Augustus suggested.
He said as the mouthpiece of the nation’s population, the media have the responsibility to convey information that is educational and uplifting and they must resist strongly, any attempt which seeks to influence them to publish information that they are unable to defend.