Monday, 10 June 2013

Lack of legislation hampering access to information in Africa

Gilbert Sendugwa,
Head of Secretariat at the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC).
Lack of relevant legislation and political will is the biggest hindrance to access to government data by the media and the private sector.

Head of Secretariat at the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), Gilbert Sendugwa told the Connected Kenya conference in Mombasa that only 11 countries in the entire continent have a law ensuring freedom of information, with many in the draft stages.

This has led to many governments not disclosing information, especially regarding use of finances, encouraging corruption, while in instances where governments have availed such information the data’s released is not that which was needed.

He said the existence of supporting legislation would ensure proactive disclosures.

Where legislation exists, such as in Zimbabwe and Uganda, Sendugwa laments the law has been used as a constraint, especially to the media, with journalists in some countries required to disclose sources while in others the exemptions on information that cannot be disclosed are too wide.

“In Zimbabwe the law provides that journalists should name sources while in Uganda information related to cabinet, individual privacy and national security among others, another host of wide exemptions cannot be availed. These laws are acting as a constraint,” said Sengudwa.

Sendugwa also said political will seems to be lacking to support the right to information in Africa, with many countries yet to employ the necessary human resources, while in others rules and procedures are lacking.

In many countries the government is also yet to provide financing to enable such implementation.

Above all Segudwa says the AFIC has noted with concern that many agencies charged with the responsibility to create awareness of the right to information are not doing so.

He says he hopes platforms such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) can support dialogue and resources needed to address the challenges.

The OGP can act as an important platform for dialogue among member states, provides information on existing gaps and provides a networking session between governments and the donor community to help mobilise required resources.

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