The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has called on African countries that have not yet done so, to enhance national-level protection of the right to information by adopting laws which ensure the “promotion and protection of this important right.” In a statement on September 28 to commemorate the International Day for Universal Access to Information, the Commission said the Day “affords us the opportunity to collectively renew commitment to creating an environment where the right of access to information is promoted, protected and realized.”
In a press statement to commemorate IDUAI, the Commission said: “In view of the importance of the right to access information, the Commission called for the designation of this commemoration through Resolution ACHPR/Res.222 (LI) 2012 To Modify The Declaration Of Principles On Freedom Of Expression To Include Access To Information And Request For A Commemorative Day On Freedom Of Information, which was adopted during the 51st Ordinary Session in May 2012, underscoring ‘the importance of setting aside a day to commemorate access to information as a way to raise awareness and emphasise the importance of this right, and promote the ideals of good governance and accountability’.”
The Commission noted that in these unprecedented times during the Covid-19 pandemic, the significance of the right of access to information cannot be overstated, adding“The uncertainty and disruption wrought by the pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of fundamental human rights, not least of which is the right of access to information.”
The right of access to information is enshrined in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in addition to other international human rights instruments including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The statement noted that it was for this reason that the Commission adopted the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa in order to assist the African States in the formulation, adoption, or alternatively review, of access to information legislation and to ensure effective implementation of the laws.
The Commission during its 65th Ordinary Session in November 2019, adopted the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa which elaborates on the scope of the right of access to information in Part III of the Declaration, from Principle 26 to Principle 36, covering issues such as proactive disclosure; the duty to create, keep, organize and maintain information; the need for an oversight mechanism established by law to monitor, promote and protect the right of access to information; protected disclosures in the public interest; and sanctions for failure to proactively disclose information etc., etc.
It stated that when the process of drafting the Model Law Project started only five African countries had adopted access to information Laws but currently at least 24 States in Africa have enacted access to information laws.
The Commission called on the State Parties to the African Charter which has not yet done so, to enhance national-level protection of the right of access to information by adopting legislation which ensures promotion and protection of this important right.
“Commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information affords us the opportunity to collectively renew commitment to creating an environment where the right of access to information is promoted, protected and realized,” the Commission said.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information was proclaimed on October 15, 2019 at the 74th UN General Assembly, following initial designation of the day by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2015.