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Access to information (or Freedom of Information – FOI) is a cornerstone of democracy. Unfortunately only 26 of 54 countries in Africa have in place legislation that guarantee their citizens the right to access to information (ATI) to promote practices that entrench a culture of openness, transparency and accountability.
When citizens have access to information they are better informed better able to understand government actions and decisions made on their behalf, and thus more active participation in public life.The people should be able to hold governments to account, and an ATI regime will enable them to do so more effectively.
ATI is a crucial element in the fight to reduce corruption, to increase accountability and deepen trust. The consequences of corruption – such as unequal access to public services, continued poverty, and even the undermining of the rule of law – are well-known.
Knowledge is power, and for media an ATI law should mean better access to information which in turn should promote higher standards of journalism. Most journalists complain about lack of access to public information, and if they are provided with what they need to be able to best inform their readers, listeners and viewers, they too will have fewer excuses for bad journalism, and can be held accountable in terms of self-regulatory mechanisms. But it is important to dispel the myth that access to information is only about media. Access to information should benefit everyone in a given society, and particularly those at grassroots level, who have neither the access, nor the ability to battle secrecy to fight for the information they need to empower themselves and run their daily lives more effectively.
ATI boils down to the fundamental right to know. It has been widely recognised that ATI is a right which underpins all others – including freedom of speech and the press, the freedom of choice and opinions and others.
|Countries with legislation pending|
|Botswana||Freedom of Information Bill Read more||2010|
|Cameroon||Enabling legislation for access to information in Cameroon and the role of libraries and librarians. Read more||2015|
|Zambia||Ministerial statement on the Access to Information Bill Read more|
|Kingdom of Lesotho||Access and receipt of information Bill Read more||2000|
|Namibia||Access to Information Bill Read more||2017|
|Burundi||Joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Burundi by ARTICLE 19, the Collaboration on ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), the East Africa Law Society, the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (Defend Defenders) Read more||2017|
|Senegal||UPR Session 31 Digital Rights Advocacy Briefing Document. Read more|
|Somalia||Media Law of Somalia Read more||2007|
|Madagascar||Madagascar’s 3rd Universal Period Review 34th Session (Oct-Nov 2019) Read more||2019|