Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, has called on African Governments to refrain from interrupting or limiting access to telecommunication services such as the Internet, social media and messaging services, especially during the electoral period, as noted in Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa.
She made the call in her Inter-Session Activity Report for November 2016 to May 2017 presented during the 60th Ordinary Session of the Commission in Niamey, Republic of Niger from May 8 to 22, 2017.
The report, presented in accordance with rules of procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, covers activities carried out during the intersession period between November 2016 and May 2017 by Adv. Pansy Tlakula, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the Commission, and as the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa. It also gives an overview of the status of adoption of access to information legislation in Africa and presents conclusions and recommendations.
The Special Rapporteur highlighted progress made in the adoption of access to information legislation on the continent since the last period. She noted that in 2010, when the process of the development of the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa began, only five AU Member States had adopted access to information laws. However, as at April 2017, twenty states had adopted such laws, including: Angola; Burkina Faso; Cote d’Ivoire; Ethiopia; Guinea; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Nigeria; Niger; Rwanda; South Africa; South Sudan; Sierra Leone; Sudan; Tanzania; Togo; Tunisia; Uganda; and Zimbabwe.
Advocate Tlakula commended Malawi and Tanzania for the recent enactment of their access to information laws ensuring that citizens realize their right to fully participate in public decision-making processes and enhancing their ability to fully comprehend and abide with the policies, plans and processes of Government, all of which contribute to strengthening democratic processes in any given country.
In light of the fact that there are currently no regional standards on the role of access to information in the electoral process, the Special Rapporteur in 2016 initiated the process of developing draft Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections. The report highlighted