Govt should consult before drafting bills: Misa

HARARE - Regional governments should broadly consult the public prior to drafting access to information bills so that such legislation is in line with international and regional best practices.

Zoé Titus, Media Institute of Southern Africa, Misa regional director told a media gathering in Harare this week that such consultations should involve civil society representing a number of sectorial issues, the media, the private sector and wide cross section of the public.

“This consultative process should continue throughout the drafting period,” added Titus during a discussion on ‘Constitutionalism and the regional protocols — Outlining the best practices on Media Law and Policy Regulation’.

She said access to information is a fundamental part of freedom of expression.

“Where citizens are ill-informed and unable to access basic public information, it is consequently impossible for them to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

“Steven Adler described the relationship adequately when he stated that: ‘To be ill-informed and speak freely is a form of intellectual slavery’.”

Titus said laws across the continent differ in terms of how they define the right to freedom of information, while some, such as South Africa extend to private bodies, other countries do not recognise the application of the law to private bodies.

“The inclusion of private bodies within a law recognises that public functions carried out by private bodies, such as the provision of electricity or water, is connected to the functions of government and are directly paid for by taxpayers money,” said Titus.

She said a number of regional developments and successful advocacy campaigns, combined with the increase in countries introducing legislative mechanisms have encouraged the view that the tide is changing for the continent.

“Significant developments include the adoption of African Platform on Access to information declaration in 2011, which contains a list of key principles essential to the full realisation of the right of access to information.

“The passing of Resolution 222 by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in 2012, authorising the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa to expand article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression to include Access to Information, and recommended that the AU officially recognize September 28th as International Right to Information day in Africa.

“The adoption of the Model Law on Access to information for Africa in 2013, prepared by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and; the Midrand declaration by the Pan African Parliament in 2013, which calls on AU member states to adopt and review access to information laws.”

Titus said despite continental developments, southern Africa lags behind with respect to legislative developments.

“Prior to 2011, countries in Southern Africa represented three of the five countries on the continent that had enacted specific Legislation guaranteeing their citizens a right to Information.

“South Africa, the first country in Africa to adopt such legislation, enacted its ‘Promotion of Access to Information Act’ in 2000 which was followed by the adoption of legislation in Zimbabwe and Angola in 2002, as well a number of countries throughout the region proposing draft Access to Information legislation.”

Comments (2)

One question why should government consult anyone when voting legislation - who would consult any media organisation about anything given the falsehoods they print.

infairness - 2 August 2014

@infairness Iwe unenge unogwaravo iwe chaunofanigwa kuziva Gvt vanhu so inogozorasha vanhu sei variivo vakavapa masimba aSamson . Asi wanga uchingoda kuita comment painternet kana zvakadaro thats good .

MukarangawekuMberengwa - 3 August 2014

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