A TREATISE on the importance of Jamaicans' access to public information has earned O'Neil Simpson, the top prize in the Inter-American Press Association's (IAPA) Chapultepec Essay Contest.
Mr. Simpson, who submitted the essay while a student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), won US$2,500 for his entry entitled, 'The Importance of Access to Public Information in My Life.'
The Business Administration major is the second Jamaican to win this prize since the competition started in 1998.
He will collect his prize during a visit to the 59th IAPA General Assembly to be held in Chicago in the United States between October 4 and 10, 2003.
The contest was announced in 39 publications in 26 countries.
The Gleaner could not make contact with Mr. Simpson yesterday but reacting to the announcement, former IAPA President and The Gleaner's chairman and managing director, Oliver F. Clarke, remarked: "The Gleaner family of newspapers is very pleased that the winner of this year's contest is Jamaican. Mr. Simpson has made us very proud and we are sure his ideas will be the foundation for interesting debate."
The Declaration of Chapultepec lists 10 fundamental principles for the protection of free speech. The document emerged from the Hemisphere Conference on Free Speech held in Mexico City's Chapultepec Castle in March 1994.
In order to spread the word about the Declaration of Chapultepec, the IAPA organises a popular essay contest asking individuals to write on the impact of these principles. The Chapultepec Project is sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation, based in Chicago, Illinois.
The goal of the contest is to raise public awareness about freedom of expression and the press and to give the public an opportunity to discuss the importance of these freedoms in their daily lives in their countries.
The 2003 contest focused on Principle number three of the Declaration, which establishes in part, that authorities must be compelled by law to make available in a timely and reasonable manner the information generated by the public sector.
Mr. Clarke said that the essay topic chosen for 2003 is relevant to Jamaica as a developing nation because it is very important for the public and private sector, as well as the Government to have access to public information.
An Access to Information Act, passed by the local Parliament last year June, will give Jamaicans greater access to public information. It will take effect in October, by which time public servants would have been trained to deal with this new period of openness.