ACHPR Tasks Special Rapporteur to Assess Extent of Implementation of Soft Laws on Access to Information in Africa

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Commissioner Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Sonoo, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has tasked its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to undertake a study on the extent of implementation of the Commission’s soft laws on access to information following concerns that despite the potential of access to information laws to foster good governance , the adoption of such national laws in Africa has not progressed meaningfully. The decision was made in a resolution adopted at its 78th Ordinary Session held virtually from February 23 to March 8, 2024.

The resolution recalled the Commission’s mandate to promote and protect human and people’s rights in Africa under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

It underscored that freedom of expression and access to information are fundamental human rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the African Charter.

The resolution reaffirmed Article 1 of the African Charter which provides that “Member States of the Organization of African Unity parties to the present Charter shall recognize the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in this Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.”

It also recalled the adoption of relevant soft law instruments on access to information in Africa including the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, and the Guidelines on Access to Information and Elections in Africa.

Furthermore, the resolution took cognizance of the Commission’s Resolution on Securing the Effective Realization of Access to Information in Africa.

It highlighted access to information as an important tool for the realization of all other human rights, including socio-economic rights, in addition to the potential of this right to contribute to the socio-economic transformation of the continent.

In addition, the resolution recognized the role of new digital technologies in the realization of the right to access to information and the role of open government data in fostering transparency, efficiency and innovation.

It noted the Resolution on the Expansion of the Mandate and Re-appointment of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa which, inter alia, tasked the Special Rapporteur to analyze national media legislation, policies and practice within Member States, monitor their compliance with freedom of expression and access to information standards and advise Member States accordingly.

Also, the resolution expressed concern that despite the potential of access to information legislation to foster good governance through enhancing transparency, accountability and the participation of persons in public affairs, including exposing corruption and issues associated with underdevelopment on the continent, the adoption of national legislation on access to information in Africa has not progressed meaningfully.

It resolved to have credible data on the status of access to information in Africa and its relationship to the implementation of the Commission soft law documents.

It stated its intention to improve the special mechanism’s interventions on access to information in Africa with the aid of research conducted.

The ACHPR tasked the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to undertake a study on the extent of implementation of its soft laws on Access to information in Africa.

The ACHPR also requested the Special Rapporteur to report on progress made on the study at a forthcoming ordinary session.

Lastly, the ACHPR appealed to all stakeholders to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and support this study.

The resolution was adopted virtually on March 8, 2024.