Trade unionist recommends freedom of information legislation

Kertiste Augustus as he addressed media workers

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.

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30 Comments

  1. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    April 4, 2019

    A freedom of  information act, should not be something for debate; whereas debating that will turn political.

    It should be a simply decision, since such legislation simply grants public access to documents or other data in the possession of a government agency or public authority.

    And that is unless the information falls into a category that is especially excluded from the terms of the legislation.

    I also believe there should be a freedom of speech act in the country.

    About a month ago I wrote something in a private forum in regards to Roosevelt; I told the recipients I did not care if they told Roosevelt what I said.

    What I said was not kind; someone felt the need to plaster my comments on Face Book.

    Hence, I got all kinds of calls from Dominicans informing me that FBI coming to arrest me.

    In America what I said is my right, that falls under the freedom of speech act.

    In Dominica police would beat/kill me in Roosevelt name! 

  2. DAPossiveMassive
    April 3, 2019

    This is such a pertinent topic to discuss in Dominica, because it does not seem to be one of the priorities of this government.

    The opposition in a parliamentary form of government, the voice that advocates on behalf of the people, is consistently disrespected in the House of Assembly by the speaker, and by default the people.

    When the a president of a country can call for boycott of a business, and the net result is the business closed down, that represents exactly what the unionist is challenging by his call; but what about the people who did listened to Charles and help close the business. What do our people want!!!?

    I remember when Ronald Reagan spoke about the axis of evil. In Dominica with the Speaker, The President, and The Prime Minister, I see similar working of the, Illuminate like, Axis of Evil operating openly and fearlessly to deny certain rights in Dominica, which is the main reason why, I believe, the unionist made the call to suggest such a legislation.

  3. Ibo France
    April 3, 2019

    DNO, you have at times come in for some harsh and undeserved criticisms from both sides of the political aisle. When both sides attack you, you know that you are doing fairly well. There is always room for improvement as nothing is perfect. Keep trudging forward with the intention to improve even incrementally. Don’t let the detractors rattle you. We live in a post truth world, you now have to tell the truth the run.

  4. April 3, 2019

    I know some people in DA will see this as a partisan matter one way or the other, but this really shouldn’t be considered one. No matter which party runs things there’s essentially nothing that anyone in government puts into writing that shouldn’t end up on a publicly accessible web site.

    • Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
      April 4, 2019

      A freedom of information act should not be a parasitism thing, because it should not be about politics, it is simply giving the citizens of our country the right to know!

      In  Dominica scoundrels and thieves goes to a bank or other private individuals take their merchandise  on credit; or as they like to say in Dominica “trust” people thing and never pay.

      If their was a credit reporting agency such as: Transamerica, Experian and the other which keep records of bad debtors, there would be less people owing banks and move on to do the same elsewhere.

      I am in the business of renting to people; someone fills an application out, I go to the credit reporting agency’s using their names, and social security number, get their credit record, and eviction history.

      Unless that person record prove they pay their rent on time, never got evicted, I do not rent to those with bad credit!

      There should also be Better Business Bureau  keeping records on bad business people in Dominica. 

  5. Ibo France
    April 3, 2019

    This topic, ‘Freedom of Information’, is relevant to good governance and would only enhance our fragile democracy. The present regime operates in deep secrecy and thick darkness. Where there is no openness nor sunlight in government CORRUPTION becomes rampant. The government’s business is the people’s business. The more transparent a government becomes, the more the people and the country prosper. The Skerrit-DLP-led administration does not operate in the best interest of the people. SELF-INTEREST is their mantra. These guys have moved from rags to enormous opulence as soon as they enter government while most citizens remain in perpetual poverty, like flies in molasses, they are permanently stuck. Transparency, accountability, inclusiveness, fairness, efficiency, responsiveness, astute leadership and respect for rule of law are some tenets of good governance. All these principles are sadly missing with this DLP antidemocratic kleptocracy .

  6. Too late
    April 3, 2019

    If it had freedom of information all now dno woulda put up the picture of the big house in mourne Daniel and ask who own that.? But all man fraid

    • Pipo
      April 4, 2019

      What if I were to tell you this is the new embassy for China. Where they renting that big house now where Monfared was staying and that use to be Daniel Green’s place is only temporary and they not returning again to their old location they were renting also. They are constructing their own purpose built embassy not far from their ambassador residence. They are here to stay. Maybe I wrong but that is what I’m hearing and Matt could find that out for himself if he lift his bottom from his chair and do some investigative journalism instead of pussy footing and play sweet music for old ladies.

  7. Joseph John
    April 3, 2019

    Oh yes what about news outlets are the going to observe ethical practice of truth and explanation of sources .

    • UKDominican
      April 3, 2019

      Mr. John, I do not think you are unintelligent. You know perfectly well that freedom of information does not pertain to news media sources or private data. It is public access to information by public authorities, which serve- & are accountable to the public. Under the U.K freedom of information Act 2000 for example, they are obliged to publish certain information about their activities, without prompting and members of the public are entitled to request information from the authorities.

      While this may be anathema to certain governments and their leaders it is vital in a democracy for good governance, accountability and the maintenance
      of trust

      • DAPossieMassive
        April 3, 2019

        I fail to see your point especially when to claim: “freedom of information does not pertain to news media sources or private data.” You seem to disagree, but concluded with agreeing with the request.

        Is there legislation in Dominica equivalent to the U.K freedom of information Act 2000, that would force government officials in Dominica to publish such information?

        Don’t you believe a law like this would weaponize the media’s capacity to obtain information as that required by law in the UK?

        The unionist seemed to have made the request on public officials, and not news media sources or private data, however if both are relevant, then there should be legislation granting authority to demand relevant information that would be in the best interest of the public.

      • Joseph John
        April 4, 2019

        @ UK Dominican , I cant accept that the UK Act give cart blanche on all government information of Britain. Like you say “certain” type of information. Not all information. If that was ever done chaos would reign. That would be an irresponsible action. When comes to its information government in/by nature is steep in secrecy. Up to this date the governments of the allies have declassified very little of their information of WW2 to the general public. Below in my reply to Steve Forester I gave a synopsis of regulations and practice that prevents this type of disclosure. Availability of most of government information is based on a “need to know ” procedure.
        In the political game people will always accuse ANY GOVERNNMENT, and express suspicion regardless of party, of being too secretive, but governments have been operating that way since the cognitive era of mankind. People have been jailed for leaks.

  8. Joseph John
    April 3, 2019

    Does freedom of information only mean freedom of government information ? Does it mean freedom to declassify government information ? Does it mean no more respect for privacy? Does it mean revoking libel and slander and publication liability ? Does it mean no more lawyer-client privilege of privacy ? What does it mean really.
    It should not mean easier access to government information only. I have heard of PRO for government, police and other entities, are they functioning ? Should the proposed legislation curb the avalanche of fake news, false accusations, insults, untruths sedition, incitement of violence and hatred available in the mainstream and social media ?
    And when the Act is passed who /what is going to put it into practice ?

    • SN
      April 3, 2019

      Freedom of Information Acts are concerned only with public (government and its agencies) information. It does not revoke libel/slander laws nor private or privileged information.

      • Joseph John
        April 3, 2019

        Thanks. So we are talking of access of information from the government. So next question is what are the facts to demonstrate that we have none. That we have no “freedom of information” as far as the government activities go. When we say government, does it pertain to other members of Parliament who are not “in Government?”

      • Toto
        April 5, 2019

        It pertains only to government, regardless of which party is in power. Members of parliament, by definition are not to be confused with members of government. Dominica has members of government, senators, who are not members of parliament for example. Government and Parliament are two separate bodies.

    • Ibo France
      April 3, 2019

      Freedom of information is one of the basic tenets of good governance. Once the specific information is not protected from disclosure by law, the public, that is, every citizen should have access to it. Stop try to muddy the waters with your extraneous questions. This piece of legislation will only serve to strengthen our democracy regardless of which political party takes the reins of power. Only a dishonest, corrupt, scandalous government, with much to hide, will strenuously object to such a valuable addition to our present ‘democracy’.

    • April 3, 2019

      As understood internationally, the term refers specifically to government information.

      Your complaint about the media is a separate issue, but one might expect that increased transparency in government can only improve reporting on governmental matters.

      • Joseph John
        April 3, 2019

        Thanks Steve for narrowing down and for your definition. I am further enlightened. but I particularly mention this wide range off decimation of information to avoid indictment of any particular government, because it might become a free for all in criticizing the present government. So if we are talking about D A government nor matter which party is in power, can we make reference to the Official Secret Act, Financial and Store Rules . Or the classification of information of Top secret, Secret, confidential and private. Or the secretive nature of diplomatic relations and documents or disclosure of security information which may be declared treasonous. The transparency in government is a topic/issue worth bi-partisan discussion , and Mr Agustus is right on point in raising it.

      • Joseph John
        April 4, 2019

        Increase transparency. what does that mean ? The Annual Estimates is published in the Official Gazette. The budget address is a public affairs and is covered live on the radio. All information pertaining to the Consolidated Fund is available to the public. Every law is passed in the Parliament and published in the Gazette. Does anyone even read the Gazette ? There is a GIS and PRO. Does anyone ever contact them for information. Is it true that the government has an open door policy and people can see ministers and officials. What about the Red Clinic when citizens can see the PM to ask for help, nearly every week. What about DBS, does it deliver news about the government. From the reports on DNO one could conclude that DNO have access to a lot of government information. Do we have telephone and net access to govt. offices. Is there audience with the President. When we talk transparency exactly what do we want, a ball by ball 24/7 running commentary on all actions and decisions.

  9. BMB
    April 3, 2019

    Kertiste….garcon….go find work for you to do or retire. Social Security payments deducted from workers and not paid, safety in the work place issues, wrongful dismissal, foreign-owned stores in Roseau under-paying staff…… the list goes on.

    ADMIN: This article is about this one topic from his speech at the media association meeting. He did address many other issues including the social security issue which was reported in other media.

    • Joseph John
      April 3, 2019

      Admin that is what I am talking about. your intervention in this is quite the ethical practice I wish to see.

      • Joseph John
        April 3, 2019

        Real professionalism. The difference between a tabloid and a news outlet.

  10. Pipo
    April 3, 2019

    Support that 100%. Long overdue,

    • Joseph John
      April 4, 2019

      Admin this is a far cry from your non- intervention re the unfair and nasty comments made about …………..

      ADMIN: This is an off-topic comment completely unrelated to this article. We did review the comments you were referring and found that while critical and even harsh they were in-line with our comment policy.

      If you would like you can post your concern under the article to which you are referring giving specific examples for your reasoning. We responded this one time so that you would be aware of our reasoning, in the future such off-topic comments will not be posted.

  11. Ahab & Jezebel
    April 3, 2019

    “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.

    Sir, you should just tell Q95 to push for freedom of information since they are the only media house on island that seems to be still independent and not afraid of Ahab and Jezebel.
    How do you expect cecil and DBS, kairie, Voice of Life, DNO, The Old Chronicle, Vibes and others to push for freedom of information from Ahab, when they all seem to be owned by Ahab and Jezebel? Don’t you all understand that everything on island from the church to village councils have been bought by Ahab and Jezebel? Gason every building and street in Roseau down to the buildings of Ross University to the Cabrits Kempinski hotel seems bought by Ahab & Jezebel “Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men” 1 Kings 18:22

    ADMIN: We appreciate what must be your sense of humour.

    • Ahab & Jazebel
      April 3, 2019

      Thanks DNO for treating it as a sense of humor because that’s my objective lol

  12. dj
    April 3, 2019

    Didn’t this event take place since on the weekend based on what I heard on other news outlet?

    If that is so, stale news.

    • Rat Race
      April 3, 2019

      SO WHAT???
      What about the people who didn’t hear it and now seeing it on DNO? Its News to them!

    • Locs Girl
      April 3, 2019

      @dj, it’s best you had taken your fingers off your keyboard. It’s my first time hearing about this news, so it not stale!

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