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Civil society groups urge African countries to pass access to information laws

MFWA

A group of nine civil society organisations including the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) – that is leading a campaign to promote the passage and implementation of Access to Information (ATI) legislation in Africa – has urged countries without an ATI legislation (such as Ghana), to take urgent steps to put a law in place.

In a joint statement issued after its meeting in Johannesburg on March 5 and 6, 2014, the group stated that countries that have yet to pass an access to information law should use the Model Law on Access to Information – developed by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa – as a standard.

The civil society group that constitutes the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) is made up of the MFWA, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), The Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), Article 19 - West and East Africa, Highway Africa, African Editors Forum, Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Open Democracy Advisory Centre (ODAC), and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Below is the full statement issued by the APAI working group.

Statement

Issued by the Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) at the end of its Meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 5 & 6, 2014.

The Working Group of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) met in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, March 5 and Thursday, March 6, 2014.

At the end of its meeting, the Working Group unanimously adopted and issued this statement:

1. The Working Group calls on the African Union (AU) to give effect to Resolution 222, adopted in Banjul, The Gambia, by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights at the end of its 50th Ordinary Session on May 2, 2012, wherein the Commission requested the AU to consider proclaiming 28 September as International Right to Information Day in Africa, as proposed in the APAI Declaration, adopted in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 19, 2011.

2. The Working Group acknowledges the increasing number of national legislations on access to information that have been passed by African countries in the last few years and calls for greater commitment towards more effective implementation of such laws to enable them realize their full potential.

3. The Working Group calls on other African countries that have not yet passed national access to information laws to take urgent steps to do so, using as a standard, the Model Law on Access to Information, developed by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and adopted by the African Commission, so as to guarantee for their citizens a right to information in accordance with international law.

4. The Working Group calls on the United Nations to endorse the APAI Declaration and proclaim September 28 of every year the International Right to Information Day, as a date to raise awareness about the importance of the right of access to information throughout the world.

5. The Working Group notes important right to information commitments in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Country Action plans of South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia and Ghana. It calls upon these governments to fully implement these commitments. The Working Group also calls upon the governments of Malawi and Sierra Leone to [adopt] an access to information law. [It calls for] the strong implementation of FOI laws in their respective OGP country action plans.

6. The Working Group unanimously elects Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda in Nigeria, as its Chair for the next one year. He succeeds the erstwhile Chair, Mr. Gilbert Sendugwa, Executive Director of the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) in Uganda.

Adopted in Johannesburg, South Africa, this Thursday, the 6th day of March, 2014.

Issued by the MFWA in Accra on March 10, 2014

The MFWA is a regional independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra. It was founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and freedom of the media and of expression.

Africa Freedom of Information Centre
ARTICLE 19
International Federation of Journalists
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda

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