NGOs call for laws consistent with right to information

By Kebba Jeffang

A joint statement from the Africa Freedom of Information Centre, Article 19, Media Rights Agenda and AFIC’s membership of 35 civil society organizations in 22 African countries called upon the African Commission to urge the state parties to review and harmonize laws to ensure consistency with regional and international standards on the right to information.

Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa, Head of Secretariat at Africa Freedom of Information Centre on behalf of the joint organization, said the African Union recognizes the right of access to information through the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, African Charter on Democracy, Elections Governance, African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration, African Union Youth Charter and African Charter on Statistics.

He said in 2012, the ACHPR resolution 222 authorised the Special Mechanism on freedom of expression and access to information to expand Article IV of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of expression to include access to information. He said the resolution also requested the AU to declare September 28 as International Right to Information Day and to endorse the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa.

The group representative said the resolution has had a positive impact on the state of the right to information in Africa through adoption of new access to information laws and ratification of African Union treaties.

Mr. Sendugwa however added that “more work needs to be done. For example, 38 African countries are yet to adopt national access to information laws. 31 are yet to ratify the African Charter on t Democracy, Elections and Good Governance while only 7 countries have ratified the Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration. It is also recognized that all African countries with national access to information laws are challenged with their implementation.”

He informed that the situation of freedom of expression and access to information is getting out of hand in Burundi. He said over the past 3 days six persons are reported to have been killed by the police while exercising their right to freedom of association, expression and information over an alleged illegal term for President Nkurunziza.

“We therefore call upon the African Commission to strengthen its efforts by urging through its next activity report, the African Union to declare September 28 as International Right to Information Day and to adopt a Special Resolution calling AU member states to adopt and effectively implement national access to information laws in line with Model Laws of Access to Information. We also call on the Commission to urge the AU to call on its member states to ratify and domesticate all African Union treaties that recognize the right of access to information, to review and harmonize laws to ensure consistency with regional and international standards on the right to information,” he added.