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Workshop on the right to access to information held in Mauritius

10 March 2016 - On 26 February 2016, the Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Mauritius Council of Social Services (MACOSS) organised a workshop in Port Louis, Mauritius.

The purpose of the workshop was to create an increased understanding of the right of access to information (ATI) amongst stakeholders in Mauritius and also to begin initial discussions on the content of an ATI law for Mauritius. The workshop was attended by a broad range of stakeholders including government officials, the Law Society of Mauritius, academics, media and civil society organisations.

The workshop began with general discussions were held on the right of access to information, its importance for promoting democracy, good governance and public participation as well as pitfalls to be avoided by Mauritius in the development of its ATI law, by drawing on experiences of other African States. Thereafter, more focused discussions were held on the proposed content of the ATI Bill, using the Model Law as a guide.

 

 


 

This workshop was a follow-up to the April 2015 advocacy visit led by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula to the Republic of Mauritius, during which the government of Mauritius confirmed its commitment to adopt an ATI law. MACOSS is expected to lead the process of developing the ATI Bill, with the technical support of the CHR and its partners.

Participants: One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information

One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius) One-day Workshop on the Model law on Access to Information (Mauritius)

Conference on Soft Law and Human Rights: The Impact of the Model Law on Access to Information

A recent conference organised by the Centre for Human Rights shed light on the successes of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) in influencing the adoption of access to information legislation across Africa.

On Wednesday 9 December 2015, the Centre for Human Rights hosted a conference on ‘Soft Law and Human Rights: The Impact of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa’, at the Senate Hall of the University of Pretoria. The conference brought together participants from across all sub-regions of Africa which included: academics, students, civil society actors and a variety of public officials.

The Model Law was developed as part of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Special Rapporteur), Advocate Pansy Tlakula, and was adopted by the African Commission in February 2013. Unfortunately, the Special Rapporteur was unable to be present at the conference, as due to her recent appointment as the Chairperson of the African Commission, she was mandated by the African Union Peace and Security Council to lead a fact-finding mission to the Republic of Burundi from 7 to 14 December 2015.

 

 


Prof Frans Viljoen, Prof Themba Mosia and HE Ms Trine Skymoen, the Ambassador of Norway to South Africa

The conference was opened by Prof Themba Mosia, Vice-Principal: Student, Residence Affairs and Accommodation of the University of Pretoria, who gave some welcome remarks on behalf of the Principal. Thereafter, Her Excellency, Ms Trine Skymoen, the Ambassador of Norway to South Africa made some opening remarks, during which she emphasised the importance of the right of access to information for democratic governance and transparency and her eagerness to learn from presentations and discussions during the conference, on the experiences of various African States in the realisation of the right.

In his remarks, Prof Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, noted the extensive contribution of the Special Rapporteur in advancing the course of access to information on the continent through the Model Law. He expressed enthusiasm that the conference will uncover useful information and trends on the implementation of the right of access to information in Africa, to enable the Special Rapporteur with the continued assistance of the Centre for Human Rights and other partners, further contribute to the promotion and protection of access to information on the continent.

The discussions in the first part of the conference centered around the development of the Model Law and the impact of the advocacy by the Special Rapporteur to encourage the use of the Model Law in the development and amendment of access to information laws by African Union Member States in Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique and Sudan. In 2010, when the process of the development of the Model Law began, only 5 AU Member States had adopted access to information laws. By 2015, 17 had adopted laws.

The conference also shared experiences on the implementation of constitutional provisions and laws on access to information in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Finally, the legitimacy of soft law within African Union frameworks was explored, with reference to the Resolutions and General Comments of the African Commission, as well as other Model Laws adopted by the African Union Commission on International Law.

Based on feedback received from discussions at the conference and further feedback from the CHR, presenters are expected to rework their papers with a view to publication in the first half of 2016.

The financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria, for this conference is gratefully acknowledged.

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The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa undertakes advocacy mission to Kenya

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to the Republic of Kenya from 25 to 28 August 2015. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials and other stakeholders, to advocate for the adoption of an access to information law in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). This is bearing in mind the on-going consideration by the National Assembly of the Private Members Access to Information Bill introduced by Honourable Priscilla Nyokabi. The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 3 expert members of the Working Group that developed the Model Law.

During her mission, the Special Rapporteur met with the Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communication and Telecommunications, Dr Fred Matiang’i, the Attorney General, Prof Githu Mugai, and the Solicitor General, Mr Njee Muturi. Within the judiciary, the Special Rapporteur met with the Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Kalpana Rawal and the Director of the Judiciary Training Institute, Justice Joel Ngugi. The delegation also met the Chair and members of the Senate Committee on Information and Technology as well as the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Other government institutions visited are the Constitution Implementation Commission, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Administrative Justice and the National Gender and Equality Commission. The delegation also met with Media Owners Association and the Editor’s Guild.

 

 


 

On the final day of the visit, the Special Rapporteur and her delegation met with a broad spectrum of civil society organisations. The purpose of this meeting was to brief these organisations on the outcome of her meetings with governmental officials and together, formulate strategies for sustained advocacy to ensure the speedy adoption of the draft Access to Information (ATI) Bill which is currently before the National Assembly. The visit ended with a press conference following the civil society meeting on 28 August.

This advocacy mission is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The second phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves advocacy visits by the Special Rapporteur to 5 selected African countries with existing or proposed Bills on access to information, to meet with high-level government officials and encourage the speedy adoption of an access to information law, which conforms to the Model Law.


 

Call for Papers: Soft law and human rights: The Impact of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa

The Centre for Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria invites papers for a conference on the Impact of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa.

Introduction

The Centre for Human Rights will on 9 December 2015, host a conference on the impact of the Model Law on Access to information for Africa (Model Law) and other similar soft law, on the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. Specifically, this conference will explore the influence of the Model Law on the development, adoption and review of access to information laws in Africa, their effective implementation, and broader influence of soft law within the African human rights system. The Model Law was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) in February 2013, following a two and a half year-long process coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights.

 

 


 

Background

In November 2010, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) adopted resolution 167 (XLVII), Resolution on Securing the Effective Realisation of Access to Information in Africa. By this resolution, the African Commission decided to begin the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa, led by its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Special Rapporteur).  The African Commission subsequently adopted the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law) on 23 February 2013 and formally launched it on 12 April 2013, during its 54th Ordinary Session.

Though non-binding, the Model Law was developed as a tool to assist African States in the development of new or amendment of existing access to information laws in compliance with regional and international instruments imposing an obligation to adopt such laws. Since the publication of the first draft of the Model Law in April 2012, the access to information landscape on the continent has improved significantly, with the increase of African States with access to information (ATI) laws from 5 to 16, and a noticeable trend of strengthened normative content of ATI laws on the continent. While the direct influence of the Model Law in fast-tracking the development of ATI Bills or adoption of ATI laws is on record in some cases, in other instances, the role of the Model Law has been evident only by virtue of obvious similarities between the text of the Model Law and newly developed ATI Bills or adopted ATI laws.

Furthermore, being the first of its kind to be adopted by the African Commission, the Model Law forms part of and is an important landmark in the increasing elaboration of ‘soft law’ (non-treaty) standards under the auspices of the African Commission. Other examples are General Comment on article 14(1)(d) and (e) and General Comment No.2 on article 14(1)(a)(b)(c) and (f) and 14(2)(a) and (c) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). The African Union has also adopted Model Laws such as the African Union Model National Law on Universal Jurisdiction for International Crimes and the African Union Model Law on Counter-Terrorism. A reflection on the influence of the Model Law thus also provides an opportunity to inquire into the role of soft law standards within the African human rights system and the African Union generally.

The conference thus seeks to examine as far as possible with reference to concrete examples and empirical data, the impact of the Model Law on the adoption, review and implementation of access to information laws in Africa. In doing so, the conference aims to create a forum to share opportunities, experiences, challenges of utilising the Model Law in the development and review of access to information laws, and drawing from these discussions, formulate new strategies to ensure the increased adoption, review and effective implementation of ATI laws in Africa and the broader implementation of similar emerging soft laws standards within the African human rights system and the African Union.

About the Conference

The conference is scheduled to take place on 9 December 2015, at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. It is expected that papers presented at the conference will ultimately be published in 2016 as a volume of selected essays, or as part of the African Human Rights Law Journal.

The conference aims to attract academics, practitioners, activists, advocates, civil society organisations, lawyers, and policymakers working on access to information and other closely related fields, from across the continent and beyond. In particular individuals and organisations that have collaborated with the Special Rapporteur under her on-going project on the ‘implementation’ of the Model Law and all others with first-hand knowledge of the impact of the Model Law in any Member State or on the development, adoption, review or implementation of legal frameworks on ATI and other relevant soft law standards.

Conference Themes

Papers are invited on three broad themes:

Theme 1:
The Model Law and its influence on access to information in Africa

  • The Model Law, its rationale and process of adoption
  • Case studies on the influence of the Model Law on the development or finalisation of ATI Bills, the promulgation of ATI Bills into law, and the review or amendment of ATI laws

Theme 2:
Implementation of access to information laws in Africa

  • Addressing implementation gaps in terms of existing ATI laws
  • Exploring the realisation of ATI though the implementation of legal frameworks on access to information, such as constitutional provisions or other generic laws focusing on transparency and accountability

Theme 3:
Role/influence of soft law within the African human rights system


Analysis of role and influence of AU soft law on standards such as General comments on article 14 of the Maputo Protocol and other relevant African Union Model Laws.

Submission specifications

Interested persons should submit abstracts of not more than 400 words to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it no later than 26 September 2015.

Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by 28 September 2015.

Fully developed draft papers must be submitted no later than 23 November 2015. These drafts will be shared with participants prior to the conference.

Following the conference, the papers are expected to be reworked by authors and re-submitted for publication by 31 January 2016.

Funding

Limited funding is available to cover the costs of travel, accommodation and meals for those authors whose papers are selected for presentation at the conference.  All applicants requiring financial support must submit a letter of motivation for financial support simultaneously with their abstracts.


 

Symposium on the right of access to information in Seychelles

On 25 and 26 May 2015, the Seychelles Media Commission (SMC) in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, organised a symposium in Victoria, Seychelles. The purpose of the symposium was create an increased understanding of the right of access to information (ATI) amongst stakeholders in Seychelles and also to begin initial discussions on the content of an ATI law for Seychelles. The opening ceremony was attended by His Excellency, President James Michel, President of the Republic of Seychelles, Ministers, Members of Parliament, CSOs, journalists and other stakeholders.

On the first day, general discussions were held on the right of access to information, its importance for promoting democracy, good governance and public participation as well as pitfalls to be avoided by Seychelles in the development of its ATI law, by drawing on experiences of other African States. On the second day, more focused discussions were held on the proposed content of the ATI Bill, using the Model Law as a guide.

 

 


 

This symposium was a follow-up to the January 2015 advocacy visit by the Special Rapporteur to the Republic of Seychelles, during which President Michel expressed his commitment to the adoption of an ATI law and supported the idea of a national symposium as a first step towards the process of developing an ATI Bill. The SMC is expected to lead the process of developing the ATI Bill, with the technical support of the CHR and its partners.

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The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for Africa undertakes advocacy mission to Malawi

From 18 to 21 May 2015, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to the Republic of Malawi. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials and other stakeholders, to advocate for the adoption of an access to information law in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 4 expert members of the Working Group that developed the Model Law.

During her mission, the Special Rapporteur met with the Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, Honourable Kondwani Nankhumwa, and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Samuel Tembenu. In Parliament, the Special Rapporteur and her delegation met with the Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Richard Msowoya. The delegation also met the Chair and members of the Committee on Media and Communication, as well as the Chairs of several other Committees of Parliament. Other government institutions visited during the mission, are the Malawi National Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Malawi Law Reform Commission.

 

 


 

The Special Rapporteur and her delegation also met with a broad spectrum of civil society organisations (CSOs) on 20 May. The purpose of this meeting was to brief these organisations on the outcome of her meetings with governmental officials and together with these CSOs, formulate strategies for sustained advocacy to ensure the speedy adoption of the draft Access to Information (ATI) Bill which is currently before the Ministry of Information. There was also a meeting with the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malawi, Ms Mia Seppo.The mission ended with a press conference on 21 May.

In all, the both the Ministers of Justice and the Minister on Information as well as the Speaker of Parliament and the Chair of the Committee on Media, Information and Communications, where confident that the draft ATI Bill will be presented to and adopted by Parliament before the end of the year. In addition, institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman and the Law Reform Commission, pledged to actively support to the process for the adoption and more importantly, the implementation of the ATI Bill, once enacted. In return, the Special Rapporteur also committed to providing ant further technical assistance that may be required in the enactment of the Bill into law and thereafter, its effective implementation.

This advocacy mission is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The second phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves advocacy visits by the Special Rapporteur to 5 selected African countries with existing or proposed Bills on access to information, to meet with high-level government officials to encourage the speedy adoption of an access to information law, which conforms to the Model Law.


 

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for Africa undertakes advocacy visit to Mauritius

From 8 to 10 April 2015, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to the Republic of Mauritius. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the adoption of an access to information law in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 4 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with several government Ministers such as: Honourable Pravind Jugnauth, Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation; Honourable Fazila Daureeawoo, Minister of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions; Honourable Prithvirajsing Roopun, Minister of Social Integration, Empowerment and Training and Honourable Soodesh Callichurn, Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations, Employment and Training.

 

 


 

The Special Rapporteur and her delegation also sat through a session of parliament after which they very briefly interacted with the Prime Minister, Honourable Anerood  Jugnauth and the Speaker, Honourable S. Maya Hanoomanjee.

Other high ranking government officials met include: Justice Kheshoe P.  Matadeen, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Honourable Mahen Jughroo, chief whip of Government, Honourable Nando Bodha, Acting Attorney General, Mr Dheerujall Seetulsingh, Chair of the Mauritius National Human Rights Commission, the Electoral Commission, Mr M. Irfan Abdool- Rahman, as well as several members of civil society, facilitated by the umbrella body of Non-governmental organisations, the Mauritian Council of Social Sciences (MACOSS).

An important outcome of the Special Rapporteur’s visit was the strong reiteration by all government officials of the commitment of the new government of Mauritius to the adoption of an access to information law as was in the election manifesto of the ruling party, in the Prime Minister’s speech (articulating the Government Programme for 2015 – 2019) during the first sitting of parliament on 27 January 2015. On their part, civil society intend to facilitate a national consultation to discuss the need for the adoption of an access to information law and to devise strategies to ensure that the issue remains a priority for the newly elected government. This meeting is to be organised by MACOSS in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur.

This advocacy visit is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The second phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves advocacy visits by the Special Rapporteur to 5 selected African countries with existing or proposed Bills on access to information, to meet with high-level government officials and encourage the speedy adoption of an access to information law, which conforms to the Model Law.

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The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for Africa undertakes advocacy visit to Seychelles

From 19 to 21 January 2015, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to the Republic of Seychelles. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the adoption of an access to information law in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 3 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with high-level government officials including: His Excellency, President James Michel, president of the Republic of Seychelles, Mr Jean-Paul Adam, Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Justice D. Karunakaran, Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Honourable Dr. Patrick Herminie, Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Rony Govinden, Attorney General, as well as Mr Ibrahim Afif, Chair of the Seychelles Media Commission and other members of the Commission.

The Special Rapporteur and her delegation also held a meeting with civil society organisations, including members of the recently constituted Citizen Engagement Platform of Seychelles (CESP).

 

 



Commissioner Pansy Tlakula (Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa) with His Excellency, President James Michel, President of the Republic of Seychelles

An important outcome of the Special Rapporteur’s visit was the agreement by stakeholders to hold a consultation to discuss the need for the adoption of an access to information law and the process to be adopted in formulating such law. This meeting is to organised by the Seychelles Media Commission in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur.

This advocacy visit is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The second phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves advocacy visits by the Special Rapporteur to 5 selected African countries with existing or proposed Bills on access to information, to meet with high-level government officials and encourage the speedy adoption of an access to information law, which conforms to the Model Law.

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Stakeholders meeting on Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression in Zambia

On 12 and 13 November 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of Southern Africa Zambia (MISA-Zambia), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Lusaka, Zambia.

The meeting brought together civil society organisations working on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Zambia, government representatives, representatives of media houses and journalists. At the meeting, participants discussed some of the various criminal laws restricting freedom of expression and how they had been applied by courts in Zambia, the impact of these laws on media freedom, and most importantly the proposed draft bill on decriminalisation of defamation and strategies on how to assure its passage in Parliament.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a National Plan of Action to guide further action towards the repeal of laws criminalising freedom of expression in Zambia.

 

 


 

On 13 November 2014, the Special Rapporteur led a delegation that met with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, Mr Bert M. Mushala, to discuss the need for the government of Zambia to review laws that criminalise free speech.The Special Rapporteur took the opportunity, on behalf of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to present her condolences to the government of Zambia and its people on the death of President Michael Sata.

In between these two meetings, the Special Rapporteur had a number of interviews with public and private media. The Special Rapporteur was a guest on Morning Show on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) - the public broadcaster, where she briefly talked about the continental campaign led by her office, to decriminalise laws that limit freedom of expression.




 

African Court: Imprisonment for defamation violates freedom of expression

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, has welcomed a decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the case of Konaté v Burkina Faso to rule that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression and that criminal defamation laws should only be used in restricted circumstances.

The highest court in Africa, in its judgement handed down on 5 December 2014, in Addis Ababa, sent a strong message that governments may not use severe criminal penalties to stifle public debate and reporting on matters of public interest.

 

“This is a landmark decision that will change the free expression landscape on the African Continent. The decision will not only give impetus to the continent-wide campaign to decriminalise defamation but will also pave the way for the decriminalisation of similar laws such as insult laws and publication of false news” said Adv Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.

In March 2014, 18 non-governmental organisations intervened as ‘friends of the court’ in the Konaté case at the African Court in Arusha, Tanzania, to address growing concerns over the use of criminal defamation laws to censor journalists and others in Africa.

In 2012 Issa Lohé Konaté, the editor of the Burkina Faso-based weekly L’Ouragan, was sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined 4 000 000 CFA francs (6 000 Euros). Konaté was convicted of defaming Burkinabé State Prosecutor, Placide Nikiéma, after he published two articles raising questions about alleged abuse of power by the prosecutor’s office, particularly in the handling of a high-profile case of currency counterfeiting.

The group argued that criminal defamation and insult laws are incompatible with freedom of expression and severely undermine the democratic rights of the media and concerned citizens to hold their governments to account. Governments routinely use these laws to silence critical voices and to deprive the public of information about the misconduct of officials. Journalists, lawyers and activists who should be free to carry out their work without fear are instead vilified and criminalised under these laws. The systematic denial of freedom of expression leads countries down a slippery slope towards impunity and authoritarianism. A clear nexus links censorship to bad governance. A democratic society cannot function without an active commitment to freedom of expression.

Burkina Faso’s criminal defamation laws, like those in many African countries, are a relic of colonialism. These laws are incompatible with an independent, democratic Africa. Approximately 95% of the countries in the world have criminal libel laws. In 2013, 211 journalists were imprisoned for carrying out their work. African countries are amongst the worst offenders in using criminal defamation laws to fine and imprison journalists.

The organisationsthat intervened as friends of the court in the Konaté case are:

  • Centre for Human Rights: Prof Frans Viljoen, Director: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Malawi PEN: Alfred Msadala, President: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Pan Africa HRD-Net): Joseph Bikanda, Coordinator: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU): Donald Deya, Chief Executive Officer: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • PEN Algeria: Mohamed Magani: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • PEN International: Ann Harrison, Director, Writers in Prison Committee: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Twitter: @pen_int
  • PEN Nigeria Centre: Tade Ipadeola, President: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • PEN Sierra Leone: Mohamed Sheriff: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Media Institute of Southern Africa: Zoé Titus, Regional Director: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC): Nicole Fritz, Deputy Director: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • South African Pen Centre: Deborah Horn-Botha: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA): Alison Meston, Director Press Freedom: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Meeting on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda

On 9 and September 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Open Democracy and Sustainable Development Initiative (ODESUNDI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Kigali, Rwanda on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Rwanda, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Rwanda. At the end of that meeting, a Plan of Action setting out in detail the categories of information needed for the improvement of SHRH of women in Rwanda was developed.

It is expected that based on the outcome of the requests for information made by local project partners, an advocacy campaign will be developed to ensure the achievement of the project’s objectives.

The financial support of the Open Society Foundation - Human Rights Initiative for this project is gratefully acknowledged.

 
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Stakeholders meeting on Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression in Tanzania

On 8 and 9 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Media Institute of South Africa Tanzania (MISA-Tanzania), and members of the Decriminalisation of Expression (DOX) Campaign, organised a stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting Freedom of Expression, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The DOX campaign is a campaign for the repeal of laws on criminal defamation, sedition, insult and false news in Africa, led by the Special Rapporteur. The Centre for Human Rights acts as the secretariat of the campaign with members from several local, regional and international organisations working on freedom of expression.

The meeting brought together organisations that had worked on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Tanzania in the past, those that are well positioned to do so in the future, as well as representatives of media groupings whose activities are most jeopardised by the existence of these laws.

 

At the meeting, participants discussed some of the various criminal laws restricting freedom of expression and how they had been applied by courts in Tanzania, the impact of these laws on media freedom and as well as past efforts at their decriminalisation in Tanzania. The meeting concluded with the adoption of anAction Plan to guide further action towards the repeal of laws criminalising expression in Tanzania.


 

Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information for Africa undertakes advocacy visits to Mozambique, Ghana and Botswana

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Mozambique, Ghana and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana. The advocacy visits were undertaken to dicuss the implementation of the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law).

Mozambique

On 26 June 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Maputo, Mozambique. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the speedy adoption of the Mozambican Right to Information Bill, currently before Parliament, in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 3 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

 

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with Mr Alfred Gamito, Chair of the Committee on public administration and social communication, which is the parliamentary committee responsible for the Right to Information Bill; Ms Benvinda Levy, Minister of Justice and Mr Ozias Pondja, President of the Supreme Court of Mozambique.  

An important outcome of the Special Rapporteur’s visit was the acceptance of the technical assistance offered by the Special Rapporteur to Mozambique in the adoption of the Right to Information Bill, as well as for its future implementation. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur will amongst other things, be forwarding her comments on the current draft of the Right to Information Bill, ahead of plenary debate of the Bill in parliament, which is scheduled for 24 July 2014.

This advocacy visit is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The second phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves advocacy visits by the Special Rapporteur to 5 selected African countries with Bills on access to information, to meet with high-level government officials and encourage the speedy adoption of an access to information law, which conforms to the Model Law.

Ghana

From 1-2 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to Accra, Ghana. The purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials to advocate for the speedy adoption of the Ghanaian Right to Information Bill, currently before Parliament, in accordance with regional and international standards on access to information as embodied in the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa (Model Law). The Special Rapporteur was accompanied during this visit by 4 expert members of the Working Group which developed the Model Law.

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur met with the leadership of Parliament which included the Speaker of parliament, Honourable Edward Ajaho as well as the majority and minority leaders; the chair and members of the select committee on constitutional legal and parliamentary affairs, which is the parliamentary committee responsible for the Right to Information Bill; Honourable Mahama Ayariga, Minister of Information and Media Relations and Ms Nana Oye Lithur, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. In each of these meetings, the Special Rapporteur received assurances of Ghana’s commitment to the adoption of a Right to information law which takes into account the Model Law before the expiration of the tenure of the present government in 2016.

 This advocacy visit is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The second phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves advocacy visits by the Special Rapporteur to 5 selected African countries with Bills on access to information, to meet with high-level government officials and encourage the speedy adoption of an access to information law, which conforms to the Model Law.

Botswana

On 7 July 2014, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, undertook an advocacy visit to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Gaborone, Botswana. The purpose of the visit was to meet with the Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomenna Lawrence Tax, to discuss possible areas of collaboration on the ‘implementation’ of the Model Law. Specifically, the meeting sought to explore the possibility of the SADC secretariat adopting the Model Law as the sub-regional standard on access to information and through that, encourage member states to utilise the Model Law in the adoption or review of access to information legislation in the SADC region.

A major outcome of the discussions was the agreement to set up a technical committee comprising of relevant staff of the SADC secretariat and technical experts appointed by the Special Rapporteur, to develop in detail the adoption of the Model Law as the SADC standard on access to information, and work with Member States to adopt and review access to information laws which comply with the Model Law. The technical committee is also expected to develop and facilitate the implementation of Plan of Action on mainstreaming access to information into the day to day operations of the SADC secretariat.

This advocacy visit is part of a three phased project funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) being implemented by the Centre for Human Rights on behalf of the Special Rapporteur. The first phase of the project, which this visit falls under, involves visits by the Special Rapporteur to key African Union organs such as the Africa Union Commission, Pan African Parliament, African Peer Review Mechanism as well as Regional Economic Communities-EAC, SADC and ECOWAS - to seek their collaboration in the ‘implementation’ of the Model Law.

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Implementation meeting on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi

On 19 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with MISA-Malawi and the Open Society Justice Initiative, held a meeting with local stakeholders on in Lilongwe, Malawi on the implementation of the project on utilising access to information for the realisation of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi. The meeting discussed the modalities for the implementation of the Plan of Action which was developed at an earlier meeting that took place on 19 and 20 March 2014 also in Lilongwe Malawi.

The initial meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise access to information and sexual and reproductive health right (SRHR) issues in Malawi, with a view to creating a shared understanding of the utility of access to information for the realization of sexual and reproductive health rights of women in Malawi.

At the end of that meeting, a Plan of Action setting out in detail the categories of information needed for the improvement of SHRH of women in Malawi was developed.

 

With the agreement on the implementation plan on 20 June, the implementation of the project is set to commence. It is expected that based on the outcome of the requests for information made by local project partners, an advocacy campaign will be developed to ensure the achievement of the project’s objectives.

The financial supportof the Open Society Foundation –Human Rights Initiative for this project is gratefully acknowledged.


Experts meeting on the Draft State Reporting Guidelines for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance

On 4 and 5 June 2014, the Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, held an experts meeting on the draft state reporting guidelines for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (Democracy Charter) in Pretoria, South Africa.

The meeting brought together a broad range of stakeholders with considerable expertise on human rights, democracy and election issues, to review the current draft State Reporting Guidelines, with a view to facilitating the domestication and implementation of the Democracy Charter by Member States. Participants included government officials, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), Regional Economic Communities, (RECs), academics and civil society organisations focusing on issues of democracy, human rights and governance from across the continent.

 
The first day of the meeting focused on broader issues of the processes for the preparation, submission and review of State Reports, as well as mechanisms for the implementation of the concluding observations made by the African Governance Platform (comprising organs of the African Union responsible for democracy, human rights and governance issues as well as Regional Economic Communities, charged with the consideration of State Reports under the Democracy Charter) to States Parties following the consideration of State Reports.

On the second day, participants broke-up into working groups and discussed extensively, the structure and content of the draft guidelines. At the end of the day, proposed amendments to the draft guidelines were discussed and agreed to in plenary.

The amended draft guidelines are now expected to be widely disseminated by the Department of Political Affairs for further feedback, with a view to ensuring broad participation by stakeholders in the finalisation of the draft guidelines. Once finalised, the reporting guidelines will be circulated to State Parties, in readiness for the commencement of reporting obligations under the Democracy Charter.

The financial supportof the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) for this meeting is gratefully acknowledged.

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PRESS RELEASE 20 MARCH 2014: Non Government Organisations call on African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights to find in favour of freedom of expression.

18 Non-Government Organisations will appear at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in Arusha, Tanzania today as amici curiae (friends of the court) to support Lohé Issa Konaté, editor of Burkina Faso weekly newspaper L’Ouragan, who was convicted of defamation, public insult and insulting a magistrate for articles alleging corruption of the State Prosecutor.
 
In October 2012, Mr Konaté was sentenced to one-year imprisonment; payment of a sum in fines, damages and costs amounting to 18 times the average annual salary in Burkina Faso; and his newspaper was closed for 6 months as a result of the guilty charge.  The conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal and his paper remains closed.
 
Criminal defamation, insult and criminal libel laws are a pernicious set of laws widely used by those in positions of power across the African continent to silence critics.  Burkina Faso’s criminal defamation laws, like those in many African countries, are a relic of colonialism and incompatible with an independent, democratic Africa because they violate a core civil and political right and restrict and deter debate on matters of public interest.   Criminal defamation laws are routinely used by governments to prevent critical appraisal of their performance and to deprive the public from information about their misdemeanours.
 
NGOs who have supported the amicus curiae are of the view that all countries deserve a strong, free and independent press to act as a watchdog over public institutions. While criminal defamation and insult laws exist, journalists will continue to practice self-censorship and will be unable to hold power to account. 
 
“We note that Ghana decriminalised defamation more than 10 years ago and recently, Niger decrimanalised defamation.  We are delighted to hear that Liberia is currently addressing their laws which criminalise speech”, said Frans Viljoen, Director of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.
 
“With the 2010 resolution by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights urging states to repeal criminal defamation and the 2013 resolution by the Pan African Parliament urging the same, we believe there is a sea change on the continent by those in power who recognise that Africa’s social and economic progress will flourish in a climate where the press is free and independent of state control,” said Viljoen.
 
The NGOs who have submitted the amicus curiae are dedicated to advancing human rights, protecting human rights defenders, and safeguarding the freedoms of expression and the press and believe that Mr Konaté’s conviction violates his right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 9 of the African Charter and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
 
Burkina Faso is a State Party to both treaties and therefore bound to uphold and protect the rights enshrined therein.  The NGOs, which include those with state, regional and global mandates, are urging the African Court to declare that his criminal conviction, prison sentence and the order to pay a substantial fine, damages and costs violate his right to freedom of expression, as protected by the African Charter and the ICCPR.
 
The NGOs urge the court to find in favour of Mr Konaté and freedom of expression.  A decision in favour of Mr Konaté will set a precedent on the continent that will reach far beyond the borders of Burkina Faso.  It will encourage law makers to ensure the passage of the draft bill to repeal criminal defamation is expedited through parliament and it will encourage all states to guarantee press freedom and freedom of expression in their countries.
 
The NGOs are the Centre for Human Rights; Committee to Protect Journalists; Media Institute of Southern Africa; Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network; Pan African Lawyers Union; Pen International And Malawi Pen, Pen  Algeria, Pen Nigeria Centre, Pen Sierra Leone, and South Africa Pen Centre; Southern Africa Litigation Centre; and World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

 

 

Stakeholders Meeting on Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists in Burundi

On 24 and 25 June 2013, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, Article 19 Eastern Africa and the Burundi Union of Journalists, organised a stakeholders meeting on the ‘Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists in Eastern Africa’, in Bujumbura, Burundi.

The meeting brought together governmental officials, national human rights institutions, national journalist associations, as well as civil society organisations, to discuss issues related to the decriminalisation of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Eastern Africa.

 

The first day of the meeting was dedicated to discussions on the use of criminal laws which limit freedom of expression in Eastern Africa and their impact on democracy, good governance and transparency. On the second day, discussions on the implementation of rules, principles as well as the need for the development or improved improvement of national legislation on safeguarding journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in conflict and non-conflict situations, as a means of strengthening peace and development in East Africa was held.

A key outcome of this meeting was the attainment of an understanding of the negative impact of the criminal laws which limit freedom of expression as means of building consensus on the need for their decriminalisation in the States represented. At the same time, the importance of ethical journalism and effective self-regulatory mechanisms in convincing States to decriminalize was highlighted. At the end of discussions, participants developed country plans of action aimed at further dialogue with government for decriminalisation of these laws. Agreement was also reached on concrete steps that needed to be taken towards the improvement of the safety of journalists in Eastern Africa.

A similar meeting on the Decriminalisation of Laws Limiting Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists for Southern Africa, will be taking place in August 2013.

The financial supportof Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for this meeting is gratefully acknowledged.

Official launch of the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa

For millions of Africans on the continent the event passed unnoticed, but the adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) of a model law to inspire and guide African legislatures towards enacting access to information legislation may well usher in an era of greater openness on our continent. When the African Commission officially launched the ‘Model Law on Access to Information for Africa’ on 12 April 2013 during its 53rd Ordinary Session currently being held in Banjul, The Gambia, it for the first time adopted a model law on any topic.

The Model Law is the product of a two and a half year long drafting process coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, under the auspices of the Special Rapporteur.

 

Several expert meetings were held, the first of which resulted in the establishment of a ten-member working group of access to information (ATI) experts tasked with developing an initial draft of the Model Law. This first draft was subsequently presented to the African Commission at its 49th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia in April 2011.

To ensure further and more in depth consultation with stakeholders, between June 2011 and June 2012, four sub-regional consultations were held in Mozambique, Kenya, Senegal and Tunisia, to elicit feedback on the draft Model Law. Additionally, a public call for comments on the draft Model Law was made by the African Commission. The feedback received from these consultations and the public call were considered by the working group and informed the final text of the Model Law.

Statement at the Launching of the Model Law On Access to Information in Africa at the 53rd Session Of The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Frans Viljoen, Director, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
12 April 2013

The roots of the Model Law lie in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and, more specifically, in articles 1 and 9. Article 1 places the obligation on all state parties to the Charter to give effect to the rights in the Charter, including through legislative means, that is, by way of domestication. One of the Charter provisions that needs to be domesticated is article 9, the right to receive information, referred to as the right of access to information.

Given that access to information is a relatively complex and specialised subject field, in which states often have insufficient experience and expertise, the Model Law aims to guide national legislators in ‘converting’ or ‘transforming’ the open-ended formulation in article 9 into detailed legislative provisions, allowing for an effective national system for accessing information, held primarily by the states, but also by private entities performing public functions. The Model Law remains what its title proclaims, a model to be adopted and adjusted to suit the specific national circumstances and conditions of particular states.

The rationale for the Model Law lies in the imperatives of democracy and good governance.

Democracy

In a participatory, people-centred democracy, information should not as a rule be viewed as ‘secret’, and as only accessible to the citizenry at the unguided discretion of officials. Rather, information should be made asfreely available as possible, to enable the people – who are after all the chief stakeholders in a democracy – to participate in the democratising process, to hold government accountable and ultimately to exercise informed democratic choices. In other words, the adoption of access to information legislation signals a shift towards a state and society where the fall-back position is that information is available unless valid reason for security or confidentiality exist, and not the other way around.

Good governance

Access to information is an instrument of good governance and may play a role in poverty eradication and the realisation of socio-economic rights. Openness is a tool to combat governance ills such as corruption, secret deals between government and multi-national companies (MNCs) to sell off land, and misappropriation of taxpayers’ contributions. In South Africa, the Access to Information Act was recently used to force a parastatal company to reveal information about a secret deal with a trans-national mining company that had a significant effect on the price of and access to electricity in the country.

The implementation of access to information legislation is also likely to lead to improvements in record keeping and archives, which are critical elements of good governance.

Process

I now highlight a few features of the Model Law process for the adoption of the Model Law.

The elaboration and drafting of the Model Law took place under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and with the guidance and consistent involvement of the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Advocate Pansy Tlakula. The Commissioners themselves also made valuable contributions to the draft. The process kicked off in November 2010, when the Commission gave its official stamp of approval, through a Resolution mandating the drafting process. Finally, it was the Commission that approved the  Model Law, at its extraordinary session in February 2013.

It was a lengthy, thorough process, spanning almost two and a half years, culminating in the adoption of the Model Law. It was thus also a costly process, giving rise to the need from support by funding partners. The main donor and supporter has been the Open Society Foundations.

The drafting process benefited from the experience and expertise of very knowledgeable people, who selflessly sacrificed talents and time to advance the Law’s elaboration and adoption. After an initial consultative broadly-representative meeting in Pretoria, a working group was constituted. But the most crucial work – the actual drafting – was done by a smaller group, the Drafting Group. The Working Group members were: Mr Chibuzor Ekwekwuo; Ms Anta Guissé. Mr Maxwell Kadiri, Ms Sampa Kangwa-Wilkie, Mr Henry Maina, Ms Irene Mbegue-Eleke, Ms Tammy O’Connor Ms Chantal Kisoon and Ms Ololade Shyllon.

The drafting process shared some characteristics of the Model Law itself, in that it had been transparent and inclusive. Comprehensive consultations resulted in many comments being solicited and incorporated into various drafts: Four regional consultations were held: in Mozambique (for Southern Africa), Kenya (for East Africa), Senegal (for Central and West Africa) and Tunisia (for North Africa). Drafts were placed on the website of the Commission and Centre for Human Rights, and comments given online were incorporated in the final draft.

The Centre for Human Rights played a coordinating role in the process. Located conveniently close to the South African Independent Electoral Commission, the seat of the Special Rapporteur’s full-time job, the Centre was able to play its co-ordinating role with the consistent support of the Special Rapporteur. At the Centre, the crucial contribution of the project manager, Ololade Shyllon, has to be singled out. She was later assisted by Ahmed Sayaad. The main word of thanks goes to the Special Rapporteur: Without her energy and resolve, we would not have been where we are today, at the launch of the Commission’s first model law – the ‘Model Law on Access to Information for Africa’.

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Official Launch :: Model Law on Access to Information in Africa Official Launch :: Model Law on Access to Information in Africa Official Launch :: Model Law on Access to Information in Africa Official Launch :: Model Law on Access to Information in Africa

Expert meeting to finalise the Draft Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria and the Open Society Justice Initiative held the final expert meeting to finalise the Draft Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information from 5 to 6 April 2013, in Pretoria, South Africa.

The meeting brought together over 60 individuals, most of whom had previously participated in consultations held in Europe, Asia, North America and three sub-regions in Africa, in the last two years. Participants included senior security sector officials, academics, civil society and access to information experts-including three Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Organisation of American States and the United Nations.

During the two-day meeting, participants were divided into several working groups, which discussed extensively specific aspects of the Draft Principles. Though a complete consensus was not reached, there was by and large agreement on most suggested amendments, thus ensuring substantial improvements to the Draft Principles. It is expected that the Draft Principles will be finalised by 10 May 2013. Thereafter, endorsement of the Principles will be sought from intergovernmental experts, professional associations, civil society, academia, independent experts and others.

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Strengthening Legal Frameworks on Access to Information in Africa

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR), University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, has commenced a two-year project entitled ‘Strengthening Legal Frameworks on Access to Information in Africa’. The project is for a period of two years (from 1 March 2013 to 28 February 2015)) and is being funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), with additional funding from the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA).

As an element of good governance and democracy as well as a human right, access to information is vital in preventing arbitrary exercise of power by governments, strengthening democratic structures and processes, combatting corruption and mismanagement of national resources and promoting development. In recent years, the importance of public access to government-held information in fostering transparency, accountability, responsiveness and public participation in decision-making processes has increasingly been recognized. Evidence of this recognition is reflected in the fact that in the last twenty years, over 45 countries worldwide have adopted specific legal frameworks, setting out the processes and procedures for enforcing the right of access to information. In Africa, however, only ten States have adopted such access to information (ATI) laws, most of which are inadequate, as they do not comply with regional and international standards, and have proven expensive and difficult to implement.

The Project thus aims to strengthen the legal frameworks for the enforcement of the right of access to information at regional, sub-regional and national levels in Africa, using the recently adopted Model Law on Access to Information for Africa. The project would seek to integrate the Model Law into the existing legal framework of the African Union through the African Union Commission, the NEPAD/APRM process and the Pan African Parliament and at the sub-regional level, through the Regional Economic Communities. At the national level, technical support will be provided to assist 10 Member States with the adoption and implementation of access to information laws which conform to the Model Law.

Key activities to be undertaken under the project include: meetings withregional and sub-regional institutions and mechanisms namely: the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Pan African Parliament (PAP), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to discuss the possible Integration of the Model Law into legal and institutional frameworks of these institutions;  advocacy visits to 5 selected Member States of the African Union in the process of adopting ATI laws for the purpose of ensuring speedy adoption of ATI laws which comply with the with standards of the Model Law ; and capacity building activities for civil society organisations, public servants and institutions tasked with monitoring the implementation of ATI laws  in selected Member States that have already adopted ATI laws.

A First for Africa: The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopts a Model Law on Access to Information for Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) adopted the ‘Model Law on Access to Information for Africa’ during its recently concluded Extra-Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia. The adoption of the Model Law is a milestone for the African Commission, as it-for the first time- provides for the first time a practical tool to assist States in complying with the obligation under article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to ‘adopt legislative, or other measures to give effect’ to the ‘rights, duties and freedoms enshrined’ therein.

This Model Law is an attempt by the African Commission to provide detailed and practical content to the legislative obligations of Member States to the African Charter with respect to the right of access to information, while leaving the specific form in which such the laws will be adopted to individual Member States. Ultimately, each Member State will have to decide on the nature and scope of adjustments to the content of this Model Law that is required, based on the provisions of its Constitution and the structure of its own legal system.

In recent years, several regional treaties have echoed the need for African Union Member States to prioritise the adoption of access to information legislation in the context of democracy, fighting corruption and ensuring service delivery. These include the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration. Furthermore, several other continental treaties such as the African Youth Charter, the African Charter on Statistics and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa also recognise the importance of access to information in the African context.

While some Member States have responded to the increased regional emphasis on access to information by enacting access to information legislation, most have failed to do so. The access to information legislative landscape in Africa is thus sparse, with only 10 (Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe) of the 54 African Union Member States having adopted access to information legislation, each with varied degrees of compliance with regional and international standards. Numerous Member States also have access to information Bills, which are at various stages of the legislative process.

To address this, the African Commission during its 48th Ordinary Session held in November 2010, by Resolution 167 (XLVII), decided to begin a process of drafting model access to information legislation for Africa. In its decision, the African Commission mandated its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (Special Rapporteur) to lead this process.

The Draft Model Law is the product of a two-year long drafting process conducted under the auspices of the Special Rapporteur and coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. Several expert meetings were held, the first of which resulted in the establishment of a ten-member Working Group comprising Access to Information (ATI) experts to develop the text of the draft Model Law. The initial draft of the Model Law was subsequently presented during the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission in April 2011.

To ensure further and more in depth consultation with stakeholders, between June 2011 and June 2012, four sub-regional consultations were held in Mozambique, Kenya, Senegal and Tunisia, to elicit feedback on the draft Model Law. Additionally, a public call for comments on the draft Model Law was made. The feedback received from these consultations, together with those received electronically, were considered and informed the finalisation of the Model Law by the Working Group.

The amended text was initially presented to the African Commission during its 52nd Ordinary Session in October 2012. At the presentation, useful comments were received from Commissioners, which formed the basis for the revised draft of the Model Law which was again presented to the African Commission at its recent session. After some further suggestions were made, the African Commission adopted the text in its final form.

The Model Law will be officially launched during the forthcoming Ordinary Session of the African Commission taking place from 9 to 23 April 2013.

May I use this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all those who have contributed to the success of this endeavour, including funders such as the Open Society Foundations, especially the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa and the Open Society Rights Initiative Fund; organisations that collaborated with me for the consultations; individuals or organisations  who participated in consultations or provided comments on previous drafts of the Model Law; members of the Working Group and finally the Centre for Human Rights, which coordinated this process.

- Pansy Tlakula
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa

Please note: The final version of the Model Law will be made available on the CHR website shortly

Updated Draft of the Model Law on Access to Information

The Draft Model Law on Access to Information has been updated in readiness for re-consideration by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) at its Extra-Ordinary Session taking place from 18 to 23 February 2013 in Banjul, the Gambia. The Model Law was initially presented to the ACHPR during its 52nd Ordinary Session last October in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast. At the presentation, the Working Group received useful comments from Commissioners which formed the basis for the finalisation of the Draft Model Law. The current draft has since been forwarded to the ACHPR ahead of its up-coming consideration.

Once adopted by the ACHPR, it is expected that the Model Law will guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation.

Dowload the Final Draft Model Law (English)
Dowload the Final Draft Model Law (French)

Final Draft of the Model Law on Access to Information

The Model Law on Access to Information has been finalised for adoption by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights(ACHPR), following the meeting of the Model Law Working Group from 6-8 July 2012 in Pretoria, South Africa. At the Working Group meeting, allcomments received electronically and at each of the sub-regional consultationson the Model Law,were considered by members of the Working Group and amendments to the draft Model Law, agreed upon.

The previous draft of the Model Law has since been amended and forwarded to the ACHPR, ahead of its consideration for adoption during its 52nd Ordinary Session, taking place from 9 – 23 October 2012 in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.

Once adopted by the ACHPR, it is expected that the Model Law will guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation.

Dowload the Final Model Law (English)
Dowload the Final Model Law (French)

Northern Africa Consultation on the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, 16 and 17 June 2012, Tunis, Tunisia

The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, held a Northern Africa consultation on the Draft Model Law for African Union Member States on Access to Information, on 16 and 17 June, in Tunis, Tunisia.

The purpose of the consultation was to review and discuss in detail, the content of the Draft Model Law for African Union Member States on Access to Information, which has been developed pursuant to Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 of the African Commission, authorising the Special Rapporteur to initiate the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa. Participants at the consultation included academics, government officials, journalists and civil society organisations from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The consultation was preceded by a half-day discussion on the importance of access to information in promoting sound democratic practices, good governance and the promotion and protection of human rights. Presentations and discussions on the importance of access to information for the realisation of socio-economic rights; facilitating transparency and accountability; safeguarding the integrity of electoral processes and for the advancement of the rights of vulnerable groups, were made by participants, with a view to illustrating the possible role of access to information in the on-going democratic transformation in North Africa. In addition, participants discussed the challenges and experiences in relation to the adoption of access to information laws in each of the countries represented.

Thereafter, presentations on the content of the working draft of the Model law were made by members of the drafting committee of the Model Law Working Group which developed the current draft. This was followed by extensive discussions by participants in the form of comments, questions and suggested improvements to the draft Model Law.

The feedback received from this consultation, together with those received at previous sub-regional consultations on the continent, will be considered at the final Working Group meeting, taking place from 6 to 8 July in Pretoria South Africa. Once finalised by the Working Group, it is expected that the Model Law will be adopted by the African Commission at its 52nd Ordinary Session in October 2012, to guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation.

Dowload the Draft Model Law (English)
Dowload the Draft Model Law (French)
Download the Draft Model Law (Portuguese)

Stakeholders Meeting On Decriminalisation Of Freedom Of Expression, 6 May 2012

A stakeholders meeting on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression in Africa, was convened by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (CHR) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The meeting took place on 6 May 2012, immediately following the UNESCO World Press Freedom Conference at Le Palace Hotel, Tunis, Tunisia.

This meeting brought together organisations that have worked on the decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression within Africa in the past, those that are well positioned to do so in the future, as well as representatives of media groupings whose activities are most jeopardised by the existence of these laws. It was intended an organisational and planning event for what is expected to be an extended campaign on repealing these laws.

The meeting specifically aimed to achieve the following:

  1. Provide a background to and introduction of the project;
  2. Discuss the proposed research on the actual effect of laws limiting freedom of expression, with the aim of developing a solid evidence base to support claims that these laws ‘chill’ investigative and critical reporting;
  3. Discuss past efforts to decriminalise these laws and the lessons learned;
  4. Identify immediate opportunities for advocacy and/or litigation activities, even without the benefit of research; and
  5. Secure agreement on the process for rolling out the campaign going forward.

The meeting began with discussions on the name and scope of the project, followed by a presentation on the result of the scoping studies which had been commissioned to identify previous research on criminal laws limiting expression, to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel‘, in the development of the research template under the project.

Thereafter, case studies of recent work on efforts towards decriminalisation of laws limiting freedom of expression were presented on the repeal of the Ghanaian criminal defamation law by Mr SulemanaBraimah of the Media Foundation for West Africa;on the Sierra Leone Journalist Association’s (SLAJ) unsuccessful attempt to challenge criminal defamation law of Sierra Leone by Mr UmaruFofana, President of SLAJ;and on the Declaration of Table Mountain Campaign by Ms Alison Meston of WAN-IFRA.

There were also discussions on the research template being developed for the research into the effect of laws criminalising freedom of expression under the project, as well discussionsaimed at identifying current opportunities for advocacy for the repeal of such laws on the continent.

At the conclusion of the meeting, sub regional focal points were elected to oversee the formulation of sub-regional committees which would be responsible for coordinating the campaign in their sub-regions in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur, assisting with the raising of funds for the campaign as the need arises and also advising on the choice of researchers and of countries to be covered by the research.

The elected focal points are as follows:

  • Central Africa-(USYPAC) Union des Syndicats de Pressed’AfriqueCentrale
  • Eastern Africa-Article 19 East Africa
  • North Africa-Arabic Network for Human Rights Initiatives
  • Southern Africa-MISA Regional Secretariat
  • West Africa-Media Foundation for West Africa

Benin moves closer towards 'ratification' of the Democracy Charter

Following the West and Central Africa Consultation on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, (Democracy Charter) held in Dakar from 10 to 12 October 2011 and organised by the Centre for Human Rights, the Open Society Justice Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA) in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to information in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ rights, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, delegates from Benin have earnestly begun to implement the  Plan of Action which they formulated and adopted at the meeting.

The Democracy Charter, a treaty which seeks to create uniform standards for the promotion of principles of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights in Africa, was adopted by the African Union on 30 January 2007 and will come into force upon the deposit of the fifteenth instrument of ratification.

On 19 October 2011, ALCREER, a local NGO in Benin, which participated at the Dakar Consultation, held a workshop which was followed by a press conference on the Democracy Charter in Benin. The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness among media professionals on the importance of the Democracy Charter and the need for the prompt completion of the ratification process by Benin, which began with the approval of ratification of the Democracy Charter by the National Assembly on 25 August 2011.

The organisers expressed the desire that Benin provides one of the five remaining ratifications necessary to bring the treaty into force and called for the speedy signing of the instrument of ratification by the President and its deposit at the African Union (AU) Commission, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A report on the workshop was published in the State owned newspaper La Nation on 18 October 2011 by Mr Wilfred Houngbedji, who represented ALCREER at the Dakar Consultation.

On 20 October 2011, Mr Wilfred Houngbedji, again published a full page article in La Nation, on the Democracy Charter and its importance in promoting democracy on the Continent.

Finally, during a parliamentary session on 4 November 2011, Honourable Eric Houndette, Member of Parliament of Benin, and also a participant at the West and Central Africa Consultation, questioned the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the status of Benin’s ratification of the Democracy Charter. In response, the Minister stated that the Instrument of ratification is currently being drafted for the signature of the President and once signed, will be transmitted to the AU Commission.

The Benin delegation has since restated its commitment to continue to follow-up on the ratification process, until is completed by the deposit of the instrument of ratification to the AU.

The Centre for Human Rights and its partners on this project welcome the commitment of the Benin delegation in implementing its Plan of Action and in so doing, contributing towards regional efforts to accelerate the coming into force of this important continental treaty.

West and Central Africa Consultation on the Democracy Charter and the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, 10 to 12 October 2011, Dakar, Senegal

The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) University of Pretoria, and the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA), in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, held a West and Central Africa consultation on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information from 10 to 12 October 2011, in Dakar, Senegal.

Representatives of Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, Parliament, Election Management Bodies, National Human Rights Institutions, Media and Civil Society from nineteen countries namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire,  Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo, participated in the consultation.

On the first day of the consultation, discussions were held on the potential usefulness of the Democracy Charter in addressing contemporary challenges in Africa, such as tackling unconstitutional changes of government, safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process, combating corruption and aiding development. The next day, participants shared experiences on the progress and challenges encountered in the ratification and domestication of the Democracy Charter in their respective countries.

Consequently, participating countries were classified into three groups: States that have ratified the Charter and deposited their instruments of ratification; States that have ratified but have not deposited their instruments of ratification and States that are yet to sign or have signed but are yet to ratify the Charter. Subsequently, each of these groups was tasked with developing specific Plans of Action to implement or to expedite the deposit of instruments of ratification or to ratify the Democracy Charter.

In however emerged from discussions that five countries namely: Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria have ratified the Democracy Charter, but for various reasons are yet to deposit their instruments of ratification at the African Union AU Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Bearing in mind that only five more ratifications are required to secure the coming into force of the Democracy Charter, representatives from these five countries presented Plans of Action to ensure the speedy coming into force of this treaty.

Thereafter, a consultation was held on the Draft Model Law on Access to Information, which has been developed pursuant to Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), authorising the Special Rapporteur to initiate the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa.

Presentations on the content of the working draft of the Model law were made by some members of the Model Law Working Group which developed the present draft, followed by extensive discussions by participants in the form of comments, questions and suggested improvements.

The feedback received from this consultation, together with those received at further subregional public consultations, will guide and inform any necessary amendments to the working draft of the Model Law. The next consultation, which is for North Africa, is scheduled to hold in January 2012, in Cairo, Egypt.

Once finalised, it is expected that the Model Law will be adopted by the ACHPR at its 51st Ordinary Session in April 2011, to guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation

Financial support for this meeting was provided by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA).

Request for comments

Download the Action Plans:

Benin

    • Benin Action Plan

Cameroon

    • Cameroon Action Plan

Central African Republic

Chad

    Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Gabon

      Mali

      Niger

      Nigeria

      Senegal

      Photos:

      Opening Session :: Dakar, Senegal Opening Session :: Dakar, Senegal Opening Session :: Dakar, Senegal Opening Session :: Dakar, Senegal

        Eastern Africa Consultation on the Democracy Charter and the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, 29 to 31 August 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

        The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa and the African Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, held an Eastern Africa consultation on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information from 29 to 31 August 2011, in Nairobi, Kenya.

        Representatives of Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, Parliament, Election Management Bodies, National Human Rights Institutions, Media and Civil Society from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda participated in the consultation.

        The first day of the consultation was dedicated to discussions on the potential usefulness of the Democracy Charter in addressing contemporary challenges in Africa, such as tackling unconstitutional changes of government, safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process, combating corruption and aiding development. The next day, participants shared experiences on the progress and challenges encountered in the ratification and domestication of the Democracy Charter in their respective countries. Subsequently, country specific Plans of Action were adopted, to facilitate increased ratification of the Democracy Charter, as a means of expediting its coming into force.

        Thereafter, a consultation was held on the Draft Model Law on Access to Information, which has been developed pursuant to Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), authorising the Special Rapporteur to initiate the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa.

        Presentations on the content of the working draft of the Model law were made by some members of the Model Law Working Group which developed the present draft, followed by extensive discussions by participants in the form of comments, questions and suggested improvements.

        The feedback received from this consultation, together with those received at further subregional public consultations, will guide and inform any necessary amendments to the working draft of the Model Law. The next consultation, which is for West and Central Africa, is scheduled to hold from 10 to 12 October 2011 in Dakar, Senegal.

        Once finalised, it is expected that the Model Law will be adopted by the ACHPR at its 51st Ordinary Session in April 2011, to guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation

        Financial support for this project is provided by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Open Society Foundations, Rights Initiatives - Right to Information Fund.

        Southern Africa Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique

        The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa and the Centre for Human Rights, Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, held a Southern Africa consultation on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information from 28 to 29 June, in Maputo, Mozambique.

        Representatives of Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, Parliament, Election Management Bodies, National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society from Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, participated in the consultation.

        The first day of the consultation was dedicated to sharing experiences on the progress and challenges encountered in the ratification of the Democracy Charter in represented Member States. Subsequently, country specific Plans of Action were adopted, to facilitate increased ratification of the Democracy Charter, as a means of expediting its coming into force.   

        Thereafter, a consultation was held on the Draft Model Law on Access to Information, which has been developed pursuant to Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), authorising the Special Rapporteur to initiate the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa.

        Presentations on the content of the working draft of the Model law were made by some members of the Model Law Working Group which developed the present draft, followed by extensive discussions by participants in the form of comments, questions and suggested improvements.

        The feedback received from this consultation, together with those received at further subregional public consultations, will guide and inform any necessary amendments to the working draft of the Model Law. The next consultation, which is for Eastern Africa, is scheduled to hold from 29 to 31 August 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya.

        Once finalised, it is expected that the Model Law will be adopted by the ACHPR at its 51st Ordinary Session in April 2011, to guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation.

        Financial support for the project is provided by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Open Society Foundations, Rights Initiatives - Right to Information Fund.

        • Click here to download English, French and Portuguese versions of the Model LawDocuments

        Photos:

        Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique Consultation on the Democracy Charter & the  Draft Model Law  on Access to Information :: 27 to 29 June 2011, Maputo, Mozambique

        Introductory Consultation on the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, 29 April, Banjul, The Gambia

        The Centre for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, held a public consultation on the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information in Africa on 29 April 2011, during the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia.

        The aim of the consultation was to introduce the Draft Model Law, developed pursuant to Resolution 167 (XLVIII) 2010 of the ACHPR, authorising the Special Rapporteur to initiate the process of developing a model access to information legislation for Africa.

        The feedback received from this consultation, together with those received at further subregional public consultations, will guide and inform any necessary amendments to the present draft.

        Once finalised, it is expected that the Model Law will be adopted by the ACHPR at its 50th Ordinary Session in October 2011, to guide Member States in their adoption or review of access to information laws, and provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation.

        Financial support for the project is provided by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Open Society Foundations, Rights Initiatives - Right to Information Fund.

        Draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information in Africa

        Dowload the Draft Model Law (English)
        Dowload the Draft Model Law (French)
        Download the Draft Model Law (Portuguese)

        Request for comments

          Meeting of Working Group on Developing Model Legislation on the Right to Access to Information in Africa

          The Centre for Human Rights held a Meeting of Working Group on Developing Model Legislation on the Right to Access to Information in Africa from the 19th to the 21st of January 2011. It was organised by the Centre for Human Rights in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expressio and Access to Information in Africa (Commissioner Adv. Pansy Tlakula) and the Open Society Justice Initiative. It considered a draft model law and explanatory note prepared by a working group nominated during the previous workshop in October on the same agenda.

          Workshop on developing a model law/ guidelines on access to information in Africa

          The Centre for Human Rights and Open Society Justice Initiative in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of expression and Access to Information in Africa, Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, held an experts’ workshop in Pretoria, South Africa from 29 to 31 October 2010. The aim of the three day workshop was to take stock of the existing terrain on access to information legislation in Africa, with a view to proposing a common African approach on formulating access to information laws on the continent.

          Participants agreed that variations in the scope and content of existing access to information laws and draft laws in Africa, as well as their failure to comply in totality with key principles of access to information, indicates a need for uniform standards on these laws in Africa.

          At the end of the workshop, it was decided that a working group of experts be established to work with the Special Rapporteur in developing a model law/guidelines on access to information. These documents will set out minimum standards to guide member states to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in their adoption of access to information legislation as well as provide uniform benchmarks for evaluating their effective implementation on the continent.

          Comments will be invited from the public on the draft model law/guidelines which will be published early next year.

          Financial support for this project is provided by OSISA (Open Society Institute for Southern Africa) and OSI (Open Society Institute) Special Initiative Fund.

          Photos:

          Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010 Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010 Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010 Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010

          Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010 Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010 Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010 Model law/guidelines on access to information in Africa  :: 29 - 31 October 2010

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