It's the second workshop around the subject "Freedom of Information" that I attended within less than six months. The first being last December by the United States Embassy.
I arrived at Saint Georges Hotel yesterday morning for the workshop, slightly late as I had a minor confusion on the parking space of the hotel. The conference room was three-quarter full. I was however a bit disappointed not finding the familiar faces from the previous workshop. I was expecting to find among attendees several others who attended the workshop by the U.S Embassy, since they received the invitation too.
Yesterday's workshop was organized by the Mauritius Council of Social Service (MACOSS) in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria.
I told myself, okay, it's time to make some new friends. In the third row, though, S. Moonesamy from the Mauritius Internet Users sat and was listening attentively to Kadiri Maxwell from the Open Society. As usual, S. Moonesamy was taking notes on his laptop. He reported back to the group. The message which can be read on the Mauritius Internet Users public archives, also contains the presentations of Kadiri Maxwell (Legal Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative), Chantal Kisoon (Gauteng Provincial Manager, South African Human Rights Commission) and Lola Shyllon (Programme Manager, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria).
A few people asked questions right after the presentation by Kadiri Maxwell. While complementing Mr Maxwell's answers, Ms Kisoon added that she noticed that a media group in Mauritius published a counter that shows the number of days since the current Government promised a Freedom of Information Act. She also said while the action is laudable, it should have been a collective initiative whereby more media groups raised the awareness and exerted pressure, as well as it's needed that the citizens also voice out. When I got my chance to ask a question, I added that the counter is published by La Sentinelle Group in the "politique" section of lexpress.mu. In fact, I showed the counter ticking using my mobile phone. I then added I do not totally blame people for not voicing out. People do not voice out fearing repercussions at work. It's not unknown that people go through political repression once they start voicing out bad practices and corruption occurrences. We cannot expect a total shift in the culture within a few days, but I do hope that the courage shown by a few might push others to re-think, ponder over their inaction.
Chantal Kisoon's presentation was titled "a view from the inside". During the tea break I had a chat with her which turned out to be inspiring; such that she takes it as a firm duty to convince the younger generation not to be discouraged and to follow the rightful path defending human rights.
During the breaks & lunch, I met several people from different NGOs and Government agencies. We had healthy discussions. I sincerely look forward to more events on the "Freedom of Information" theme so as the pressure builds up enough for concerned agencies to take matters seriously and start working on the bill.
I will elaborate more on the "Model Law on ATI" in a separate blog post.