The African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) has released a report on the state of Access to Information (ATI) in Africa. The report examines the progress of ATI Laws in different countries that have either enacted the Law or has an ATI bill in progress since the APAI Declaration in 2011. The APAI Declaration provides an informal standard for assessing progress in ATI in the different countries.
The review covered 14 countries, namely: Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Gambia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. Out of the 14 countries surveyed, only four countries, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, have specific ATI Laws. Regardless of these countries’ legal status of the ATI Laws, on a ranking scale on the state of ATI for the surveyed countries, Malawi and Kenya came first and second above any other country with an ATI Law. The ranking is as follows: Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Zambia, Botswana, DRC, Gambia, Namibia, and Swaziland. The report states that though a country like Kenya does not have an ATI Law, it has other sectoral laws which can be used to access information and utilize the principles of the APAI declaration.
For Nigeria, the report states that with the passage of the Freedom of Information Law in 2011, the country has a strong legal framework though access to recourse seems problematic for the average citizen. It said that: “awareness of the right of access to information is still relatively low but the situation is gradually improving as more and more people are beginning to use the Law to demand for information and challenging refusals in court.” It recommends that advocacy should focus on raising awareness about the Law to drive up its usage.
The report also explores whether there is a fundamental right of access to information for anyone who requests for information. The Gambia and Namibia, are countries that show that they are least affected by the status or characteristics of the requester while Swaziland is the most affected. Both the Gambia and Namibia do not have specific ATI Laws, and also ranked lowest in terms of their general performance. The report explained such discrepancies on two factors namely: equal treatment alone does not necessarily heavily influence all experiences in relation to ATI; and the possibility that such experiences are “equally poorly”. The report states that in Africa, it seems that an individual’s occupation, status and political association most likely influence such ATI equal experiences for citizens.
The report also listed other factors that influenced the assessment process which included Proactive Disclosure, Technology and Advocacy. It also created infographics on the state of ATI in each of the assessed countries. It concluded by requesting that access to information activist should find the gaps within the different countries and seek means to address such gaps especially as identified in the report’s infographics.
APAI is made up of a working group that was created in 2009 to initiate a campaign to promote ATI in Africa around the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration of Press Freedom. Members of the working group are: Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC); Article 19; Federation of African Journalists (FAJ); Highway Africa; Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA); Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA); Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC); The African Editors’ Forum (TAEF); and Media Rights Agenda (MRA). A fundamental objective of the campaign is promoting the celebration of Right to Information Day on September 28 of every year.