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IFJ applauds initiatives promoting freedom of information

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 28 September 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Applauds Initiatives Promoting Freedom of Information (FOI) Laws in Africa

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) applauds the efforts taken by coalitions to promote Freedom of Information (FOI) Laws in Africa and reaffirms its unflinching support and collaboration with the stakeholders involved in the process.

Today as we commemorate the International Right to Know Day, the IFJ reiterates its support to the FOI coalitions in Africa and calls on its affiliates to join the movement in order to guarantee access to information and protection of sources in Africa.

"Most journalists in Africa do rely on rumours when they have no access to public information," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "FOI laws will allow citizens, including journalists, to access information in the public domain; they make it legally binding for civil servants who hold public formation to provide it on request."

Freedom of Information is a fundamental right for citizens -- including journalists -- as stated by the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa. As a key component of transparency and accountability in any democracy, FOI allows journalists to do their work professionally and helps the general citizenry to make enlightened and informed decisions.

The IFJ is highly committed to this process, and strongly believes that the FOI Coalition in the continent should continue to strive hard in this noble endeavour and to see to it that Freedom of Information Laws becomes a reality in every country of the continent.

South Africa, Angola and Uganda are the only countries in Africa to have adopted FOI laws. The FOI Coalition in Nigeria has fought since 1999 for a bill that the Parliament unanimously adopted on February 21, 2007 but President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to approve the bill, which is still pending before the new administration of President Umaru Yaradua. Draft legislations on FOI are being pushed by coalitions in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.

The IFJ believes that with the passage of FOI laws, journalists will have access to information held by government and public authorities and officials and communities can access public information to ensure better housing, health, education and development budgets; combat corruption and alleviate poverty; and participate in the government by expressing their opinions about how such developments would benefit the society.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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