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Blog Standard

ARTICLE 19 welcomes a comprehensive new access to information law, which came into effect in Rwanda yesterday (11th March 2013). This is a positive step by the Rwandan Government, which must be given full effect.

This passage of this law shows that the Rwandan government is keen to entrench transparency and accountability as well as enhancing  greater participation by citizens in the management of public affairs. We are enormously proud to be associated with the spirited campaign that has championed this law” said Henry Maina, Director of ARTICLE19 Eastern Africa.

ARTICLE 19 has led multi-stakeholder initiatives advocating for the enactment of this law with local groups like the Rwanda Civil Society Platform.

ARTICLE 19 finds the law exemplary in terms of its scope of application. The law applies not only to public bodies but also to some private bodies, which carry out work in the public interest. There is a strong emphasis on the importance of the public interest in the right to information and we are pleased to see that this is reflected by limited fees to pay, which will cover the cost of the reproduction of papers and for postage.

The law also has clear provisions on proactive disclosure and allows for all people to seek, receive and disseminate information, which is a progressive step as other laws on the continent only allow citizens this right.

ARTICLE 19 notes that the law has some broad exemptions, where access to information may be restricted in relation to national security and the administration of justice and trade secrets.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) boasts some pretty lofty and much-needed goals. The global initiative aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. It was officially launched September 20, 2011 by eight founding governments: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States.

Now that the OGP is nearly one year old, it’s a good time to analyze how it’s faring—most notably in Africa, which has a long history of secrecy in government and lack of effective public participation.

 The OGP in Africa

Since the OGP’s launch, 57 countries—mainly from Europe and the Americas—have joined the initiative. However, few countries in Africa actually meet eligibility requirements of the partnership, so expansion has been slow. OGP eligibility is based on governments’ demonstrated commitments to transparency in four key areas: timely publication of essential budget documents; adopting an access-to-information law guaranteeing the public’s right to government information; instituting rules requiring public disclosure of income and assets for elected and senior public officials; and openness to citizen participation in policy-making, including basic protections for civil liberties. Only six African countries currently meet the guidelines to join OGP: South Africa,

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) has reappointed Commissioner Pansy Tlakula as its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa for another two years.

Pansy Tlakula was reappointed on November 5, 2013 by Resolution 247 titled “Resolution on the Renewal of the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa”. The resolution was adopted by the Commission at its 54thOrdinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia.

In the latest resolution reappointing her, the African Commission recalled its mandate to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Commission, in the exercise of its mandate, established various mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa.

It specifically recalled the Resolution on the Mandate and Appointment of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa adopted at its 36th Ordinary Session held from November 23 to December 7, 2004 in Dakar, Senegal.

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) is pleased to join the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) in launching a major global analysis of the development of the right to information (RTI) movement, broken down by region. The publication follows FOIAnet’s celebration of its 10th anniversary on International Right to Know Day, 28 September 2012.

The Update, which was co-authored by different human rights advocates for each of the seven regions it covers, presents the very different challenges, developments and experiences of civil society advocates for RTI in each region of the world. The Update also describes the key struggles that have taken place in each region, successes and failures, and lessons learned, along with a selection of case studies that illustrate how RTI has been promoted within each region.

“This is the very first time FOIAnet has produced a major publication,” said Toby Mendel, Chair of FOIAnet. This is a wonderful way to build on our anniversary 10-10-10 Statement: Achievements, Challenges and Goals on the 10th Anniversary of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet).”

The question of how to ensure public access to government information without jeopardizing legitimate efforts to protect people from national security threats is the focus of a new set of global principles being unveiled today.

The new Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (Tshwane Principles) are the result of over two years of consultation around the world, facilitated by the Open Society Justice Initiative and involving governments, former security officials, civil society groups, and academics.

The Principles address in unprecedented detail the balance between secrecy and the public’s right to know, in a world that has been transformed by global efforts to combat terrorism and the parallel rise of new digital technologies, as well as the rapid growth of right to information laws.

In addition to addressing what government-held information may legitimately be kept secret and what information should be disclosed, they outline standards for the treatment of whistleblowers who act in the public interest, as well as issues related to classification and declassification, and other questions.