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MISA launches reports on most open and most secretive public institutions in southern Africa

(MISA/IFEX) - 27 September 2011 - MISA is pleased to announce that it will launch its reports on the Most Open and Secretive Public Institutions in Southern Africa for 2011, on 28 September, International Right to Know Day. The much-awaited publications will again reveal how open public institutions really are, in a region that is known to be home to some of the most secretive governments in the world.

The reports' release will be accompanied by an awards ceremony, with the most secretive public institutions being awarded a Golden Padlock award, and the most open public institutions being awarded a Golden Key award. The awards will be presented to the relevant institutions at eight separate events, which will be hosted by MISA chapters in Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho.

The reports, conducted by eight different MISA chapters in the region, will again reveal the lack of transparency, openness, and willingness on the part of public institutions to provide information to the public. In Botswana, for example, a country with a reputation for being one of the most democratic in Africa, the researchers could not establish a single institution that could be considered open.

On a positive note, however, whilst this was the case in Botswana, all of the other seven countries will present a Golden Key award this year, a step up from 2010, where five countries were unable to establish an institution that could be considered for the award.

This will be the third consecutive year that MISA has conducted research to establish how willing public institutions are in southern Africa to share public information. This initiative forms part of MISA's campaign to ensure greater access to information in Africa, a right guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People's rights, and Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

MISA has worked for many years to advance the right of citizens to access information. Just a week ago, on September 17th – 19th, MISA along with other partner organisations, hosted the Pan African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI), which brought together experts from across the continent. PACAI was a resounding success and concluded with the signing and adoption of the African Platform on Access to Information Declaration (APAI). At this year's launch of the Most Open and Secretive Public Institutions in Southern Africa, there will be an opportunity to sign this historic document, in recognition of the Right to Know Day. There will also be an opportunity for those not present at the launch to sign on to the declaration online.

To sign up and to access the declaration on Right to Know Day, please go to http://www.pacaia.org . In addition, to find downloadable versions of the reports you can go to http://www.misa.org/downloads/spp.html . These will be available after the awards are presented on 28 September.

MISA urges civil society, governments, media organizations and the public to use the occasion of 28 September to lobby for a better access to information in southern Africa.

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