Africa’s Progress on RTI Assessed in Two Reports

2 October 2014

Two key groups advocating for right to information laws in Africa have issued detailed reports, both calling for intensified efforts to continue progress and taking a close look at national situations.

The Africa Freedom of Information Centre Sept. 29 launched its first State of the Right to Information in Africa Report. The report is on this link.

The report reflects on the progress African countries have made in advancing the right to information, providing 14 chapters on individual countries. (FreedomInfo.org will b reprinting these chapters in the coming weeks.)

Among other observations, FIC states: “Ratification, domestication and effective implementation of regional treaties that recognize peoples’ right to information is essential for continental integration, democracy and security.”

The Media Institute of South Africa (MISA) issued Government Secrecy in an Information Age: 2014 Report on Open & Secretive Public Institutions in Southern Africa.

MISA also awarded Golden Key awards in various countries, including one in Namibia for a world-first Children’s Declaration on Access to Information.

MISA said the Children’s Declaration on ATI was developed by 21 children who participated in a Children and ATI workshop held Sept. 28. “Participants mainly consisted of members of MISA’s Regional Children & the Media Project, as well as MISA Namibia’s Think B4 U LOL Youth Media Action Group,” MISA explained.

MISA Sees Improvement in Websites

In its fifth year of evaluating the openness and transparency of government and public institutions in southern Africa, MISA found, “One significant improvement MISA has observed over the past five years is an increase in institutions with websites and improved quality of these websites.”  MISA said also, “We are also slowly starting to see institutions develop a social media presence.”

“Unfortunately,” MISA said, “the trend with regard to responses to written and oral information requests is not so positive. Most countries reported little to no improvement in this category over the years and Malawi had their worst results in the five years of research.”

Overall, the report says, public institutions in the region “continue to improve with respect to the provision of information through information and communication technologies, but have been unable or unwilling to improve their ability to respond to public requests for information.”

Southern Africa is lagging behind in passing RTI laws, MISA wrote. “The number of countries with ATI laws more than doubled between 2011 and 2014, and yet not one southern African country enacted ATI legislation during this time.”

MISA’s report includes detailed assessments of government websites and describes attempts to obtain information in various countries: Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland sections of the report will be published by Oct. 3, after the Golden Key and Golden Padlock awards ceremonies have been held in these countries.

Thirteen of the 54 African nations have RTI laws: South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Niger, Guinea, Tunisia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. A bill recently passed on first reading in Mozambique.

Campaigns to pass laws are under way in other countries, including: Botswana, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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