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:

Fight corruption

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.

Correct misinformation

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

Digital Rights School: Digital rights from a feminist perspective

Digital Rights School: Digital rights from a feminist perspective

Call for applications: Digital rights from a feminist perspective  MISA Zimbabwe in partnership with Internews (Greater Internet Freedom Project) is calling for applications from individuals interested in receiving training in digital rights under the theme: Promoting...

Concern over attempts to capture MISA

Concern over attempts to capture MISA

By Methaetsile Leepile A young woman at the back of the hall shouts, “What about our subscription? Are we going to get our money back?” She was referring to the P100 annual membership subscription fee she had paid over the last two weeks to MISA Botswana, a local...

MISA Botswana holds AGM, postpones elections 

MISA Botswana holds AGM, postpones elections 

MISA Botswana Director Tefo Phatswane, MISA Botswana NGC Chairperson Mboki Chilisa, MISA RGC Chairperson Golden Maunganidze and MISA Regional Director Tabani Moyo, at the MISA Botswana AGM. The MISA Botswana Chapter on Saturday, 3 September 2022, held its annual...

Concern over the revocation of broadcasting licences in Malawi

Concern over the revocation of broadcasting licences in Malawi

1 September 2022 His Excellency The President of the Republic of Malawi Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera Office of the President and Cabinet Capital Hill Circle Private Bag 301 Capital City, Lilongwe 3 Malawi. Your Excellency, Re - Concern over the revocation of...

Reporting on Illicit Finance in Africa (Bulawayo)

Reporting on Illicit Finance in Africa (Bulawayo)

Reporting on Illicit Finance in Africa Dates: 02 November 04 November | Location: Bulawayo Application deadline: 11 September | Programme: Wealth of Nations - Illicit finance (NORAD) APPLY This is an opportunity provided by the Wealth of Nations - Illicit finance...