ATI UNIT & ATIASC Launch Essay Competition aimed at the Youth

The Access to Information Unit has strategically targeted the youth, who Public Education Manager Mrs. Tricia Cameron-Anglin referred to as the drivers of information in the future, to be aware of their right to access Government held documents under the access to Information Act (2002).

The third annual Access to Information National High School Essay Competition, which was launched at the Jamaican’s for Justice Headquarters, on Thursday September 29, 2011 aims to raise awareness of the public’s general right to know and promote the access to information law and its goals of increased accountability, transparency and public participation in national decision-making. The Competition which is in its third staging invites third to sixth form students to write on the topic:

"The Access to Information Act (2002) is one of the greatest tools available to media and the general public in Jamaica". Discuss.

The competition conceived of three years ago by the ATI Unit and supported by the ATIASC gives young persons a reason to research and think critically and analytically about the Act and how it can and has been used to get information to improve the lives of ordinary Jamaicans. Mr. Damian Cox, Director of the Access to Information Unit, who welcomed those in attendance, including ATI access officers from various Government Ministries spoke about increased efforts to promote the competition through the use of social networking sites popular among young persons. These efforts and educational partnerships with schools and the Ministry of Education will drive the competition and increase knowledge and interest in the Access to Information Act among high school students.

In her remarks, Dr. The Honourable Carolyn Gomes O.J., Chairperson, Access to Information Advisory Stakeholders Committee (ATIASC), focused on the importance of access to information and reiterated her support for the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee of Parliament which reviewed the Access to Information Act (2002). She stressed that if these recommendations are implemented the Act would be significantly strengthened. Dr. Gomes also referred to the importance of the ATI Appeal Tribunal and called for the current vacancy on the Tribunal to be filled by an appointment by Governor General, His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD, to ensure that the critical appellate process for users of the Act can proceed without delay.

Sherraine Phillips, winner of the inaugural competition, noted that she was attracted to the competition as a means of learning more about the Act. Ms. Phillips added that this year’s question is a very interesting and engaging one because of the advances in media and technology and its effect on information discourse in Jamaica.
The competition closes on January 31, 2012 and offers first to third place prizes of $30,000 and ATI Unit Trophy, $20,000 and ATIASC Trophy and $15,000 and ATIAA Trophy respectively.

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