Africa Forum calls for adoption of access to information laws

The Africa Forum held at the 2021 World Press Freedom Day Global Conference in Windhoek, Namibia on 30 April called upon African governments to adopt democratic pieces of legislation that guarantee access to information for all citizens.

In her keynote address, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Commissioner Jamesina King said there cannot be a viable development agenda without the right to access to information. She said reliable information helps citizens to make informed decisions that entrench democracy and sustainable development.

Commissioner King called on those at the forum to continue to advocate for mechanisms for the implementation of free expression and information access laws in their respective countries.

She noted that while significant progress has been noted with the enactment of access to information laws in Africa, there are still several countries that are yet to enact these laws adding that full enactment and enforceability of the law is key.

Speaking on behalf of UNESCO, Guy Berger said Africa must celebrate having given birth to the World Press Freedom Day but should also strive to meet the principles of press freedom set out in the Windhoek Declaration.

Delegates reiterated the need for a roadmap upon which countries that enacted repressive legislation during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic would review and repeal the laws. They noted that governments should ensure that the media is free and secure to ensure it plays its role in promoting sustainable growth and regional integration.

Governments were also encouraged to ensure that the cybersecurity regulation is informed by the revised principles of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information which recognises the internet as a right. Furthermore, African governments were also urged to take all measures necessary to guarantee the safety and security of journalists.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) officially launched the State of Press freedom in Southern Africa Report (2019-2020). The Report notes attacks on journalists and activists as well as enactment of repressive laws as some of the major hindrances to press freedom in the region.

 

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