28 September 2012

Right2Know campaign issues statement of demands to the Office of the Presidency


Statement issued by the Right2Know campaign

To the Office of the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa:

Noting that 28 September 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of International Right to Know day we stand in solidarity with freedom of information campaigners around the globe, who like us, demand their right to know and voice the following concerns:
In light of the unprecedented public outcry against the Protection of State Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill), on this day we speak out against the broader and ever-increasing climate of secrecy in our politics, including:
• The emerging pattern of intimidation and persecution of whistleblowers across the public service;
• The failure of transparency mechanisms like the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) that are meant to promote communities' right to access information but which have become another obstacle. From the mining sector to municipal affairs, a cloak of secrecy has fallen over South Africa's institutions of power;
• The rise of an increasingly politicised and unaccountable intelligence sector that has sought to bolster its powers via legislation such as the Protection of State Information Bill and General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (the so-called "Spy Bill");
• The failure to introduce any kind of reform to political party funding, despite the completely unregulated flow of money between secret business interests and political parties.

• Government must make good on its promises to set up a whistleblower protection fund and the many whistleblowers either suspended or dismissed for speaking out against abuse of power must be reinstated;
• Government must acknowledge its failure to promote access to information through PAIA and other means, and take concrete steps to promote openness in the public service and amend and improve PAIA;
• In keeping with Deputy President Motlanthe's pledge to ensure the Protection of State Information Bill's constitutionality, President Zuma should immediately and publicly commit to refer the Secrecy Bill to the Constitutional Court before signing it into law;
• The single most lauded move from the Presidency against corruption has been to establish the commission on the Arms Deal, yet the public will not be given access to the submissions. All submissions to the commission of enquiry on the Arms Deal should be openly available and accessible to the public.
• All political parties must be required to publicly declare their sources of funding.

International Right to Know Day will be celebrated for its 10th year on 28 September 2012 by freedom of information advocates and campaigners around the world. In South Africa, as we continue to struggle for the preservation of our right to information, and the promotion of more open access to information, it is important to remember that we are not alone. Many countries around the world currently do not have freedom of information laws, and in 2011 the number of African countries with access to information legislation was as low as 10. Open access to information is a right which many African citizens still struggle to realize.

We call on our government to both set an example by committing itself to maximum openness and transparency, and to lobby other African governments to follow suit by passing access to information laws where there are none, and actively promote every African citizen's fundamental right to open access to information.

The right to seek, access and receive information from state or private bodies which perform a public function or use public funds, is a right that is guaranteed in a number of constitutions (including that of South Africa) and is included in various international agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (Article 9). Yet, this right is still severely undermined by governments and corporations across the African continent and the globe. The South African Right2Know Campaign stands in solidarity with freedom of information activists from around the world who continue the work to promote this fundamental human right and to campaign for open, democratic societies in which there is full citizen empowerment and participation in government.

Download the Right2Know statement