The 52nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, held in Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire from 9-22 October 2012, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Commission.

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Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has complained that the media in the country is struggling to access information on mining because the players involved are reluctant to release it. CHRR’s Communications Officer Luke Tembo said the challenge is affecting the media’s efforts to relay relevant information that can help uplift the mining sector. He said this during CHRR’s journalists’ orientation in Mzuzu on how they can access mining information from various stakeholders in Malawi. Check out the news report here.

Freedom of Information Advocates the world over will tomorrow celebrate the Right to Know Day. The decision to mark 28 September each year  was taken by participants in an international conference held in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2002 when the Freedom of Information Advocates Network was also created. The day is used by advocated for free access to information, transparency and accountability to advocate for everyone’s right to know. SALC will support the Golden Key Awards, held by the South African Human Rights Commission to mark this day in South Africa. In this ceremony, the most transparent government department will be celebrated while the most secretive state department will be shamed by being presented with a Golden Padlock!

SALC was one of over 200 participants at the Africa Information and Media Summit (AIMS) that convened as a special session to adopt the Declaration of an African Platform on Access to Information this past weekend. This in a series of events that took place in Cape Town between 17-19 September 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Here is the latest version of the draft declaration for an African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) to be presented to delegates at the Pan African Conference on Access to Information.  This document is part of a regional initiative to promote and set minimum standards for Access to Information on the African continent. Another initiative aimed at setting minimum standards for FOI in Africa, which SALC has been involved in, is the draft Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information.  Check this blog for updates from the conference in Cape Town.

With the discovery of uranium in Malawi, the IMF estimated that the export of the commodity would result in an increase in Malawi’s GDP by 10% and an increase in exports of 25%. This seems a sure path towards poverty alleviation, which is much-needed in Malawi. Increased income from exports, reduced food prices and availability of fuel were some of the demands voiced by the Malawians in last month’s public demonstrations. These demands are likely to be addressed should the IMF estimates become a reality. However, the uranium mine is owned and operated by Australian company Paladin Energy Ltd. In exchange for a rather favorable tax regime, the government of Malawi received a mere 15% stake in the project. A development agreement was however entered into to protect the interests of the people of Malawi. If this new-found source of income for the country is to translate into a positive change in the living conditions that took Malawians to the streets last month, there is need for transparency and open accountability from the beginning. Read the rest of this entry »

Lilongwe – A community task-team from the northern region district of Karonga has petitioned the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Department of Mines and the Ministry of Labour for access to information that will enable them to effectively monitor mining activities in the area for compliance with fundamental human rights and labour standards. Read the rest of this entry »

Insufficient knowledge about contraceptive methods and how to use them and fear of social disapproval are included as main reasons for the unmet need for family planning and contraceptives. These reasons stem from lack of access to adequate reproductive health information. According to Engender Health, the process by which an individual arrives at a decision about health care is an informed choice when it is based upon access to, and full understanding of, all necessary information from the client’s perspective. Information holders; the health care workers, the pharmacists, the nurses and the doctors need to be trained in adequately transferring up to date information that they possess on contraception and family planning methods to the public. Information in this context like in many others is power. Read this contribution ‘Freedom from the tyranny of excessive fertility’ by Matilda Lasseko to Young Women’s Voices Newsletter ‘Pepeta’ here.

That a general right of access to information is included under article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) will no more be open for debate. This will be expressly stated in an upcoming UN General Comment. The UN Human Rights Committee’s General comments have been used as interpretive tools the world-over for human rights provisions in international, regional and national legal instruments. The right of access to information, has for years, been considered by advocates of FOI a component of the freedom of expression guarantee under article 19 of the ICCPR, which includes the right to “seek and receive information”. That this gives a person the right to demand information was not explicitly stated. The Committee is currently reviewing its Draft General Comment No. 34 on article 19 which may remedy this. Read the rest of this entry »

Should it become necessary to enforce one’s right to access information in terms of the Constitution, we provide a quick guide that would make it easier for a claimant to present their case for review in court. The guide emphasizes the importance of proper record keeping. It provides samples of an overview sheet, a phone call log and a physical follow-up log. In the absence of a statute that lays out the details of implementation of the constitutional guarantee, one should be able to show the court details of what they did on their request, when they did it, and the public officials that they have been dealing with. The court would then be better placed to determine that the state organ in question failed in its constitutional obligation, as the custodian of public information, to make that information available. This is a right that is actionable through the court in Malawi and as valid a human right as one’s right to vote. Read the rest of this entry »