News on Freedom of Information (FOI) in Africa

Call it ‘freedom of information (FOI)’ or ‘access to information’ or ‘right to know’ or ‘right to information’ – it is a fundamental and undeniable basic human right. Now, the right to access public information is the right of every person to know, to have access to the information s/he needs to make free choices and to live an autonomous life. The 2002 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights reaffirms the ‘fundamental importance of freedom of expression and information as an individual human right, as a cornerstone of democracy and as a means of ensuring respect for all human rights and freedoms’.

Indeed, access to information is an enabling right, a vital tool in realizing a variety of other political, social and economic human rights. Freedom of or access to information is a core standard for participatory democracies in view of the fact that, only a well-versed population can effectively contribute to the construction of governments and political institutions. The relationship between information and power is profound. Without information, the people have no power to make choices about their government – e.g. no ability to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process, to hold their governments accountable, to thwart corruption, to reduce poverty, or ultimately, to live in a genuine democracy. According to UNESCO, “11 (eleven) African countries have passed national FOI laws (Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe), while draft FOI laws in other African states are at different stages in the process towards their adoption. The implementation of FOI legislation in Africa has faced several challenges.”

For women’s rights organizations, the right of access to information would capacitate women and girls to effectively influence financing for health, service delivery, compete favorably in the economic market, promote and protect their human rights including access to land and ownership, make decisions concerning their sexual and reproductive health, among others.

Since 2009, FEMNET has been championing collective participation of women’s rights organizations in lobbying for the enactment and implementation of FOI laws in their countries. This year, we are keen to highlight the latest updates/news and keep the momentum especially in supporting the enactment of FOI laws as well as increasing awareness amongst women’s rights organizations in linking women’s rights issues to FOI laws. Click these links below to read and share with others.

For more information/feedback please contact Isabella Ngarurirwe, FEMNET’s FK Fellow (2015/2016)

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