Big boost for access to information in Africa

ACHPR adopts model law as Rwanda passes law

Richard Lee's picture

Author

Strategic communications for WWF

March 15th, 2013

It has been a remarkable few weeks for the campaign to promote greater access to information in Africa.

At the end of February, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) formally adopted the African Union’s Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, which is intended to guide countries to adopt and implement Access to Information legislation.

And then on Monday, Rwanda became the 11th country on the continent to pass an Access to Information law, indicating the government’s commitment to ensure that its citizens can fully realise their right to access information.

“The [Rwandan] law is progressive with provisions applying to relevant private bodies, as well as good provisions on public interest override and fees,” said a statement from the (APAI).

The Open Society Foundations have long supported the campaign for greater access to information in Africa and have been particularly involved in advocacy around the Model Law.

“The adoption of the Model Law on access to information by the ACHPR is an important milestone, and we are likely to see more countries on the continent passing the law as a result,” said Dr Dumisani Moyo, Media and ICTs Programme Manager at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). “Efforts are at an advanced stage in Zambia and Malawi, and advocacy work is underway in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland.”

Currently, four countries in West Africa have access to information legislation, followed by southern and eastern Africa with three each, and northern Africa with one.

The last three years alone have seen significant developments, which have changed the legislative landscape in Africa around Access to Information. In 2011, the number of countries with Access to Information laws doubled.

The same year saw the adoption of the African Platform on Access to Information declaration, as well as the largest gathering of Access to Information experts and advocates ever seen on the continent with the convening of the Pan African Conference on Access to Information held in Cape Town in September 2011.

“Although, it is early, it appears from the onset that 2013 is shaping up to be another significant year for Access to Information campaigners,” said the APAI, adding that it will continue to “advocate at all levels - international, regional and national - for a more open and transparent Africa, and for the official recognition [by the UN] of September 28th as International Right to Information Day.”

But there is still a considerable amount of work to be done since 43 countries have not yet passed access to information laws.

“We call on the other 43 national governments in Africa that have not yet done so, to take urgent steps to adopt national Access to Information laws and give effect to the rights of their citizens to access information,” concluded the APAI.

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