The Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP)
The Freedom of Information Programme is dedicated to extending the boundaries of freedom of information in South Africa by:
- creating awareness of the right to information and its power as an enabling right that can be used to protect, promote and fulfil other human rights
- empowering individuals and organisations to understand and utilise the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) as a strategic advocacy tool
- increasing compliance with, and the use of, PAIA
Access to information is an essential element for a vibrant democracy. When implemented effectively, it facilitates transparency, accountability and good governance. It is an enabling right that, in principle, affords all people the opportunity to access information that can be used to protect, promote and fulfil other human rights.
Section 32(1) of South Africa's Constitution states that everyone has the right of access to any information held by public bodies and any information held by private bodies that is required for the exercise or protection of any right. PAIA is the national legislation which seeks to give effect to that constitutional entitlement.
In fact one of the original objectives of FOIP was to assist individuals to access records concerning themselves, or to assist individuals to access a deceased relative's records if they are that individual's next of kin*, from the successor agencies of the Apartheid-era Security establishment.
Presently, and in the furtherance of its goals, FOIP provides the following services:
- advice and guidance to researchers, individuals and organisations wishing to make PAIA requests using the revolutionary PAIA Request Tracker;
- comprehensive training including workshops aimed at raising awareness about the right to information and the important role that it can play in the achievement of advocacy goals and the protection of rights as well as capacity building training aimed at increasing the capacity of NGOs to utilise PAIA as a strategic advocacy tool.
In addition to the practical services that FOIP offers there is a commitment by the unit to further the academic discourse around the right to information. To this extent FOIP has conducted research which has lead to valuable pieces being published.
In Addition FOIP is actively involved in strategic litigation aimed at expanding and testing the limits of PAIA.