Journalists have received the assurance that the long promised Freedom of Information Act is still on the cards for Barbados.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall, told journalists on Sunday night that the matter would engage Government’s attention over the next 12 months, as it started to examine what a Freedom of Information Bill for Barbados would look like.
However, he said the process would first require Government having to completely transform the way things were done in the public service, particularly how information was documented, and other governmental processes.
“Freedom of information will require us to completely transform how we do things in the public service so that you cannot write anything in cursive on file, because if you do, it can completely compromise the ability of the individuals who have to provide that information to actually get it out and get it to you,” Mr. Marshall said, noting some minutes from meetings could be four to five pages long.
The Attorney General made these comments as he engaged journalists in discussion during the Annual General Meeting of the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers at the Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Hastings.
He stated that a “serious administration” needed to have a “healthy” relationship with the press. “What we have to do as an administration is to ensure that we facilitate the dissemination of information to our citizens…. When we look at the question of a Freedom of Information Act, it is precisely because we need accurate information to be in the public domain. Secondly, in order to ensure transparency and good governance, citizens have to have almost unfettered access to information.
“And thirdly, when people in leadership roles understand that there is a mechanism where their actions are exposed and measured in fairly short order then they have a strong incentive for conducting themselves properly,” Mr. Marshall declared, noting such matters would exclude those of national security.
To facilitate the process, the Attorney General said Government had embarked on a number of initiatives, such as the post-Cabinet press briefings, to show the Barbadian public how an open and transparent government operates. He reasoned that this was especially important as the Barbadian society was an educated one with access to social media and information.