24 June 2011

Developments in African Access to Information

As reported on in May, the Special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and access to information in Africa is requesting comments on a draft model access to information law for African Union member states, developed pursuant to Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 of the ACHPR. FOIP have been actively involved in the drafting of this model law for some time now. In fact, FOIP's Advocacy and Training Outreach Officer, Tammy O'Connor, will be presenting on the model law at the Southern African regional consultation next week. To see more about the model law, visit here.

As work on the development of the model law gathers steam, so too has the development of individual laws throughout Africa in a fresh push from African governments to expand on good governance legislation. A particularly noteworthy development in the last month was the signing into law of Nigeria's Freedom of Information Act by President Goodluck Jonathan. This law is being viewed as a ‘gold standard' for African freedom of information laws and is a worthy follow-up to Liberia's progressive law passed in late 2010. The Nigerian law makes provisions for short processing times for requests for information, strong penalties for non-compliance by officials and strong whistleblower provisions, among other progressive provisions.

In further news, the Rwandan Cabinet has approved an access to information bill that it is now hoped will be signed into law by late September. This act of furthering transparency will serve as an appropriate continuance of Rwanda's powerful work around truth-recovery and nation healing that has followed its turbulent and tragic political past.

Further still, in mid-June the Senegalese parliament also decided to support the adoption of an access to information law. This decision was announced by members of the Senate and National Assembly, following a seminar organised in June 2011 by civil society organisations, in partnership with the Ministry of Communication and Panos Institute for West Africa.

Uganda has also recently passed regulations that will assist in the implementation of their law passed in 2005 - the lack of regulations before now has been sorely lamented by freedom of information advocates.

All these developments serve as testimony to the strong advocacy from civil society throughout Africa in the furtherance of the citizen's right to freedom expression and access to information. FOIP congratulates its African colleagues on their tireless advocacy work that has resulted in these developments and wishes them the best in their quest toward the passing of laws, the perfection of those already in place and the promotion of proper implementation of freedom of information laws to make the right a reality in the lives of citizens. FOIP will also continue its own work on the development and implementation of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000, as well as lending its support to international advocacy as and when possible.