Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) on October 28, 2016 urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to urgently carry out a study the state of impunity against journalists in Africa as a means to advance citizens access to information in Africa. While addressing the 59th Ordinary Session of ACHPR, Gilbert Sendugwa AFIC’s Head of Secretariat observed that whereas the number of African countries with freedom of information laws has increased, this has not addressed the situation of human rights abuses and corruption in part due to increased attacks and killings of journalists. He added that killings and attacks on freedom of expression practitioners tend to increase in circumstances where information is needed most- elections, conflict, and procurement among other spheres.
“Journalists play an important infomediary role of receiving and transmitting information to the people. The practice of public officials for political and economic personal gain makes leaders determined to protect information about these vices at all costs. This has made the practice of journalism risky” observed Gilbert Sendugwa.
In calling on measures to address the problem, Mr. Sendugwa inquired:
Can we address this problem without knowing how big it is, where it is predominant, who is affected, how, who are the perpetrators, how are they protected, by whom and under what circumstances?
There has been progress over the last few years with the number of access to information laws in Africa increasing from five in 2010 to twenty in 2016. Both the African Union and United Nations recently recognised citizens’ access to information in respective development frameworks. However, lack of capacity for implementation and poor utilisation on the demand side threatens the realisation of targets set by both the United Nations and the African Union.
To this end, AFIC further urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to modify guidelines for State Periodic Reports on Access to Information to be aligned to targets set by AU Agenda 2063 and UN Sustainable Goals. Citing an example of Uganda, Kenya and Malawi where funding for access to information is yet to be realised, Gilbert observed:
Our experience reveals that it is individual agencies rather than Government as a whole that implements yet in Uganda for example budget is only allocated to the Ministry of Information while in Kenya and Malawi no agency is allocated budget for ATI implementation. AFIC urged Member States to start allocating budget and building technical capacities of public agencies to effectively the right to information at individual agency level.