MISA Zimbabwe Marks Right to Know Day
MISA Zimbabwe notes with great concern that as the world commemorates the Right to Know Day celebrated annually on 28 September, Zimbabwe is still to enact a democratic access to information law as demanded for under the new Constitution.
This year’s event is being held under the theme: Easier Access. Better Decisions. Greater Accountability. This theme dovetails with MISA-Zimbabwe’s running theme for 2014: Right to Know Key To Life, which was coined to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day commemorations.
While MISA-Zimbabwe acknowledges the new constitution with its broader Bill of Rights that expressly enshrines the right to information under Section 62, full enjoyment of this right is being hindered by the restrictive and archaic Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
Under Section 62 (4) it is clearly and unambiguously stated that new legislation must be enacted to give effect to the right to access to information. This constitutional provision undoubtedly demonstrates the inadequacies of AIPPA in guaranteeing freedom of information rights.
The envisaged new information law should be guided by the principles adopted or noted by the African Union (AU) and the African Platform on Access to Information Declaration (APAI).
EXCERPTS OF APAI KEY PRINCIPLES
Fundamental Right Accessible to Everyone
Access to information is a fundamental human right, in accordance with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
All information held by public bodies is public and should be subject to disclosure (except in limited circumstances).
Established in Law
The right to access to information shall be established by law in each African country.
Applies to Public Bodies & Private Bodies
The obligation to access to information shall apply to all public bodies as well as government owned or controlled private bodies.
Obligation to Publish Information
Public and private bodies shall be obliged to proactively release information in a timely manner about their functions, powers, structures, officials, decisions, expenditures, budgets, etc.
While the foregoing principles remain instructive on the exercise and enjoyment of access to information rights, Zimbabwe continues to lag behind in fulfilling the principles and standards on the right to information.
This is clear from MISA- Zimbabwe’s survey report of 2014 titled:Government Secrecy in an Information Age, where seven out of 10 public institutions refused to furnish requested information. This has been a disturbing trend since MISA- Zimbabwe started undertaking this annual survey in 2010.
MISA-Zimbabwe therefore reiterates its calls for government to repeal AIPPA and enact a new democratic information law as demanded for by the Constitution.
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The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was founded in 1996. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.
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