Universal access to information means that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information. This right is an integral part of the right to freedom of expression. The media plays a crucial role in informing the public about issues of interest, but it relies on the ability to seek and receive information, too. Hence, the right to universal access to information is also bound up with the right to freedom of the press.
On 17 November 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared 28 September as International Day for Universal Access to Information. Considering that several civil society organisations and government bodies in the world have adopted and currently celebrate this observance, the UN General Assembly also adopted 28 September 2019 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information 2020 focuses on the right to information in times of crisis. It also highlights the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
UNESCO and its intergovernmental programs - the International Programme for Development of Communication and the Information for All Programme - provide a platform and frame for all the stakeholders to participate in international discussions on policy and guidelines in the area of access to information. Both programs also enable positive environment for ATI to flourish through the development of projects aimed to strengthen open science, multilingualism, ICTs for disabled and marginalised, and media and information literacy.
Informed citizens can make informed decisions, for instance, when going to the polls. Only when citizens know how they are governed, they can hold their governments accountable for their decisions and actions. Information is power. Therefore, universal access to information is a cornerstone of healthy and inclusive knowledge societies.
Compiled by Law Desk (SOURCE: UN.ORG).