15 November 2011

South African freedom of information laws met with disapproval at Golden Padlock Awards

South Africa is no longer a beacon for freedom of information law in Africa, according to Karen Mohan, a media law policy specialist at the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) who spoke out at the recent Golden Padlock Awards.

Mohan suggested that South Africa has lost its once lofty status due to the "worrying and disturbing" Secrecy Bill, which is currently pending. She went on to say that "The rest of Africa should not be looking up to South Africa anymore as an example of good freedom of information laws."

Mohan pointed to recently adopted Nigerian and Liberian laws, which are more progressive than South Africa's legislation.

The awards ceremony, hosted by MISA, identifies the worst performing nations in the region in terms of their access to information law.

Botswana was named the winner of the Golden Padlock, after having failed to respond to any of the requests made by MISA between June and August of this year. Mozambique finished with the second lowest score, with only one public institution responding to a request, and Swaziland finished third from the bottom.

Namibia was found to be the best-performing state that was assessed. Three responses were given out of nine requests to the Namibian government institutions within 14 days of the request being made. Lesotho also performed well, with three of eight institutions responding to requests, despite the fact that the Freedom of Information Bill that was introduced in 2000 has not yet been passed into law.