Access to information
It is your fundamental human right to ask for and receive, information held by public organisations and bodies.
You might have heard some of these terms: Access to Information (ATI); Freedom of Information (FOI); the Right to Know (R2K); or the Right to Information. Maybe you have heard about access to information laws or maybe you have even made a freedom of information request for public information.
All these terms point to the same idea – it is critically important to make sure information held by the public, and in some cases private, institutions are available and accessible to citizens.
Why is access to information important?
The right to seek, access and receive information is a fundamental human right guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. It is also recognised in many of the Constitutions of southern African countries.
The right to access information is important because it helps citizens:
You cannot question what you don’t know. Greater access to information increases the transparency of policymaking and governance.
Participate in democracy
More informed citizens are able to participate more effectively in their nation’s democratic processes.
Access other social and economic rights
As far back as 1946, the United Nations described access to information as the cornerstone of all freedoms because you need information to exercise other crucial rights such as the right to vote, the right to a clean and healthy environment and the right to make informed choices.
Access education and build their capacity
An informed population can better its situation by converting information into knowledge. To do this, citizens need information literacy skills so they can distinguish between information and disinformation; public and private information; and what is ethical and what is not.
When citizens can see what information the government holds about them, they can also seek correction of that information if they consider it wrong or misleading.
African Platform on Access to Information Campaign
The African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) Declaration clearly articulates a number of principles that speak to the central role that access to information play in furthering a number of rights including gender equality, health and education, which are all crucial to development.
As the secretariat to the continental APAI campaign, MISA promotes the importance of access to information to the post-2015 development agenda and, where possible, analyses how access to information, freedom of expression and media freedom can be integrated into the new global objectives.
Access to information news from our chapters
Regional governments commit to more openness as MISA launches press freedom report
MISA Regional launched the third State of Press Freedom in Southern Africa Report on 11 May 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia, where government officials from four regional countries agreed to closely co-operate with civil society organisations in improving freedom of expression...
The State of Press Freedom in Southern Africa Report 2022 ( Now Available)
FOREWORD SHAPING A FUTURE OF RIGHTS: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AS THE DRIVER OF ALL OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS THE past few years have proven to be tough where it concerns the exercise and enjoyment of media freedom and freedom of expression in the Southern African region. The...
MISA Zimbabwe 2022 State of the Media Report (Now Available)
Introduction As the year under review drew to a close, Zimbabwe hosted the belated commemorations of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists in the resort town of Victoria Falls on 11 -12 November 2022. The event, which coincided with the...
Statement to the ACHPR on the right to freedom of expression in Southern Africa
Chairperson, Honourable Commissioners, State delegates, ladies and gentlemen, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is honoured to present this statement during the 75th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). As we celebrate...
Southern Africa improves on media rankings but more needs to be done
Southern African countries recorded improved rankings according to the Reporters Without Borders 2023 World Press Freedom Index, but the spectre of shrinking civic space continues to haunt the region. Botswana halted the slide it recorded in 2022, improving from a...