Information is power. In the democratic establishment we are in today, providing timely and relevant information is vital for transparency and accountability and for people to make informed decisions.
The highest law, the Constitution, guarantees the right to information to all citizens. This means that it is the birth right of individuals in the society to have access to information.
Media is there just as a vehicle to carry information to the citizens. As individual citizens cannot approach agencies or ministries for information on a daily basis, they have to depend on media. Therefore, there is the need for a proper flow of information from the source to those who rely on it.
Today, news media are finding it difficult to get information. One reason is that there is no proper system of spokesperson or media focal person in agencies and ministries to coordinate a better flow of information.
But this could now change. The department of information has trained information and media officers from various agencies and ministries to be the link between the government and the media. They are expected to streamline the flow of information and sharing of information with the media and the people.
This is a good move given that accessing information is a challenge, especially when journalists work on deadline. We hope that after the young media officers go back to their agencies, they will share the importance of sharing information to their reclusive bosses and colleagues.
We hope they will not forget their role as information officers once they are occupied with their main responsibilities. Their roles should not be limited to arranging appointments, receiving emails and responding to queries from the media.
There have been a number of attempts in the past to appoint spokespersons in all the government ministries and organisations. It didn’t work because the spokespersons had to seek permission from his or her boss to talk to media. A significant amount of time was lost in between.
Government policies, decisions and statistics are the documents that people need as they go about doing their business every day. Unless the IMOs are thorough themselves with information, there will not be significant change. They may have the authority to disseminate information, but people will still be left wanting.
However, what is encouraging is that the government has realised the importance of media officers. This is a good beginning. The idea is to make IMOs a permanent post. This is an important recognition. Apart from issues that could risk national interests and security, government information must flow to the people.
Information is vital. System of dissemination should be made more efficient and transparent.