What we do

Access to Information

A predominant “culture of secrecy” in most African countries is breeding subjects, not citizens.

Freedom of Information is a basic human right
Access to Information is increasingly regarded as a basic human right. The 2002 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights states in Article IV:
“Public bodies hold information not for themselves but as custodians of the public good and everyone has a right to access this information, subject only to clearly defined rules established by law.”

Access to Information is an enabling right, a vital tool in realising a variety of other political, social and economic human rights. It assists in fulfilling ones socioeconomic potentials and in verifying and demanding better service delivery, no matter whether with regard to the provision of utilities or services in various sectors, such as health or education. Access to Information is also an essential part of the Right to Freedom of Expression. Using your Right to Information increases transparency in the public sphere, helps to combat corruption and is hence part and parcel of any effort to improve effective government and good governance. The Right to Information is crucial in enabling people to participate in public life and make informed choices in democratic processes. Media play an essential role as they are the platforms for accessing and exchanging information and opinions.

The Right to Information is thus not only an important right for journalists and media professionals but for all people by playing a critical role in the political and economic development of a country.

The Right to Information in Africa
 The African Media Barometer reports point to great weaknesses with regard to respecting and implementing the Right to Information on the African continent (look for the discussion of indicator 1.8). Most African countries have neither passed Freedom of Information legislation, nor possess any constitutional guarantees. Furthermore, legislation is only a first step towards the realization of the Right to Information as by itself it does not guarantee access to public information in practice.

Campaigning for the Right to Information
For years Africa’s media practitioners have campaigned for Access to Information Freedom of Information, the Right to Know, or Right to Information laws and their effective implementation. An important lesson learned: Media alone cannot be successful. More promising instead is a campaign that unites a broad coalition of media and civil society organisations behind the call for Access to Information.

In 2009 leading African media and rights organisations formed a working group to develop a coordinated Access to Information Campaign for the African continent. The Campaign reached its first milestone when the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) was adopted at the Pan-African Conference on Access to Information held in Cape Town in September 2011. Follow links to read the declaration in various languages: English, French

This home-grown policy document together with the equally home-grown Freedom of Information model law of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2012) www.article19.org/data/files/pdfs/standards/modelfoilaw.pdf provide valuable reference points for continuing advocacy work on the continental, regional and national level and strengthens activists‘ positions in consultations with governments.

In coordination with our network of FES-country offices and their partners in 19 Sub-Saharan African countries, fesmedia Africa supports the advocacy work of the APAI working group on a continental level and works with APAI partner organizations on national Freedom of Information campaigns in selected African countries.

Essential Readings

  • Pan-African Conference on Access to Information (2011): African Platform on Access to Information, Cape Town. View APAI- declaration in English and French.