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Blog Standard

AFIC and the Ghana Right to Information Coalition (GRIC) have issued a joint statement urging Ghana’s Parliament to adopt a law that reflects regional and International standards.

The statement came a week after the Parliament published the version the Bill that has been tabled for debate. The statement acknowledges the will of the Government of Ghana to “deepen transparency and good governance as a means of improving the living conditions of Ghanaians.”

African Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) together with its membership of 27 civil society organizations from 18 African countries congratulates the Government, Parliament and people of Sierra Leone upon the adoption of Freedom of Information (FOI) law.

This adoption demonstrates Government’s commitment to transparency and confirms that a lot can be achieved if Governments constructively engages with citizens on such an important agenda as transparency. During the Open Government Partnership regional outreach meeting held in Mombasa in May 2013, the Minister while responding to contribution made by Mr. Emmanuel Abdulai of Society for Democratic Initiatives and member of Sierra Leone freedom of Information coalition, promised that his government would expedite tabling and consideration of the country’s draft freedom of information bill.

The adoption of an FOI law represents Government’s strong intention to implement Africa Union transparency agenda underpinned by six treats that recognize and protect the right to information. It also signifies seriousness with which Government takes recommendations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights’ which through Resolution 222 of April 2012 which among others calls on member states to adopt access to information laws in line with regional instruments. Sierra Leone becomes the thirteenth African country to adopt an access to information law following South Africa, Uganda, Angola, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Guinea, Tunisia, Rwanda and South Sudan.

An Action Conference on Access to Information was opened this morning in Lusaka, Zambia by the Country’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting. He reaffirmed Zambia’s commitment to pass an FOI law. This conference- which brings together approximately 150 right to information stakeholders from government, civil society, media, private sector, academia, donor community, regional and international organisations- aims to reflect on the domestication of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), Open Government Partnership (OGP) and other initiatives on the African continent. 

   The Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), member of the APAI Working Group, has been actively involved in the campaign to promote the APAI Declaration in Africa and beyond. For example, AFIC participated in the drafting of the Carthage Declaration on World Press Freedom Day 2012 which calls on governments to endorse APAI and recognise September 28 as Right to Information Day. APAI sets out a number of principles that are key for the full realisation of the right of access to information.  


The Open Government Partnership Africa Regional Meeting is currently underway at the Serena Beach Hotel, Mombasa, with representatives from 16 countries in attendance. This is the first OGP Africa Regional Meeting that has attracted a wide variety of Participants and Speakers who include OGP participating governments,Civil society activists, Academia, Multilateral institutions and other interested actors and the Media.  

The Meeting was opened by Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications, Dr. Bitange Ndemo who welcomed participants to the first Africa Regional Meeting. Joseph Powell from the OGP Support Unit noted the growth of OGP participating governments from 8 member countries to 59 member countries. Powell also emphasized on OGP being a genuinely inclusive process for the government and civil society.  

Gladwell Otieno, Executive Director, Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG)  highlighted the importance of access to free information and concrete commitments by governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.  

South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration Ayando Dlodlo challenged Civil Society on transparency and accountability and called on Civil Societies to work hand in hand with their respective government for the betterment of citizens. Ayando highlighted on the use of ICT by governments to offer opportunities for information sharing and public participation and innovation, and invest in the feedback from the Citizens.  

There has been an explosion in access to information legislation since the turn of the millennium with an unprecedented number of right to information laws being adopted. Worldwide there were just 12 laws in place at the beginning of 2000 but by the end of the decade there were over eighty, although only five were in Africa – Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. And the pace has only quickened since then. Now there are 94 laws in place around the world – and 11 in Africa.
 
During the Africa Regional Conference on Access to Information organised in 2010 by the Carter Centre, former US President Jimmy Carter said that providing people with the right to know was essential for a modern democracy built on an enduring relationship between the state and its people.
 
A participant representing the government of Ethiopia observed that his government and other governments in Africa were committed to advancing the right to information on the continent but needed guidance about what the legislation should look like. He noted that a model law would help not only countries contemplating the adoption of access to information laws but also those that already have such laws but were struggling with implementation.
 
This was the beginning of a demand-driven Model Law on Access to Information for Africa. Following this request, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 authorising the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to initiate the process of developing a model access to information law for Africa.