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Regional Court



Social Services

Supreme Court




Nat. Exec.


Information Received


APRIL 21ST -23RD 2008



Conference Organizers


Human Rights Network-Uganda (HURINET-U) was established in 1993 by a group of eight human rights organizations, and was formally registered as an independent, non-partisan and not for profit organization in 1994. The membership of HURINET-U currently sits at 31 and is drawn from organizations that are committed to diverse human rights issues but complementary in terms of areas of focus, such as child rights, gender and womens issues, torture, peace building and conflict resolution, prisoners rights, refugee rights and labour rights. Members range from purely Ugandan NGOs to international organizations.

Open Society Justice Initiative

The Open Society Justice Initiative, an operational program of the Open Society Institute (OSI), pursues law reform activities grounded in the protection of human rights, and contributes to the development of legal capacity for open societies worldwide. The Justice Initiative combines litigation, legal advocacy, technical assistance, and the dissemination of knowledge to secure advances in the following priority areas: national criminal justice, international justice, freedom of information and expression, and equality and citizenship. Its offices are in Abuja, Budapest, London, New York and Washington DC.

Open Society Initiative for East Africa

The Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) supports and promotes public participation in democratic governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights by awarding grants, developing programs, and bringing together diverse civil society leaders and groups. OSIEA seeks to promote open society and to consolidate democratic principles and practices through increased public participation and the creation of a strong institutionalized rights framework. OSIEA seeks to play an active role in encouraging open, informed dialogue about issues of national importance.

African Freedom of Information Centre

African Freedom of Information Center provides technical assistance to civil society organizations in different countries to develop and implement Freedom of Information advocacy, litigation and monitoring strategies. It is a regional centre, where experiences garnered from different countries can be pooled and shared among civil society activists, to provide a platform for cooperation and collaborative activities in the region. The centers activities include building capacity, developing linkages and networking, providing support, and facilitating collaborative action between civil society organizations all over Africa.

World Bank Institute

The World Bank is a source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the common sense. It is made up of two unique development institutions owned by 185 member countries, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)and the International Development Association (IDA). Each institution plays a different but supportive role in the mission of global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards. The IBRD focuses on middle income and creditworthy poor countries, while IDA focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together they provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.


HURINET U in partnership with Open Society Initiative for East Africa, Open Society and Justice Initiative , African Freedom of Information Centre and the World Bank organized the first of its kind conference on the Freedom of Information under the theme Securing and Implementing a robust Freedom of Information Legislation Regime in Uganda and the Broader East African Region and Beyond..

The conference was borne from the fundamental democratic value of increasing citizen participation in the governance process. Accordingly, giving nations transparency and accountability in government and in this case, combating corruption in the East African region and beyond. The conference focused on the adoption of appropriate institutional and legislative measures that guarantee the effective application of the Freedom of Information principles throughout Africa and beyond.

The participants to the conference were drawn from countries at varying stages in the formulation and implementation of the freedom of information legislation. This greatly enhanced its potency as a forum for information sharing and crucial space for a campaign to reignite action on the Freedom of Information in the East African region and beyond. It also created a window of opportunity to heighten advocacy and contributed to the consolidation of democracy and underscore tenets of good governance in the region.

The three day conference created a platform for peer learning and information sharing and exchange and was able to impact knowledge on the ability to better advocate for and support information legislation in their respective areas.

Participants gained invaluable skills and approaches to ingrain cultures of transparency and accountability from their governments to their people and were exposed to both current and effective strategies for successful implementation of Freedom of Information legislation where legislations exist. The study practical approaches to operationalise the Freedom of Information Legislation were used where participants learnt to monitor and evaluate government compliance with the legislation; to include skills on using modern ICT tools. For those countries with no current legislation on the Freedom of Information, the conference played a part in increasing collaboration, peer learning, networking and information sharing on Freedom of Information and examined strategies for the enactment of this legislation.

The conference also created a forum to springboard for future collaboration and partnership in the struggle for FOI legislation to further enhance access to information in the world.

The conference drew a total of 78 participants from the countries of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, USA, Hungary Budapest, Ghana, Madagascar and Uganda.

The conference was facilitated and moderated by Freedom to information gurus at not only the National level but the regional and International level.


Gratitude is extended to the following without whom the conference would not have been a success;

Those who provided Funds for the conference; Open society Initiative East Africa, Open Society Justice Initiative, World Bank and Africa freedom of Information Centre.


Conference Facilitators

Conference moderators

Conference participants and

Imperial Royal Hotel


Conference organizers



Day one: Advocacy Strategies for Securing the Enactment of Freedom of Information LegislationChapter One: Introduction


1.1 Introduction

1.2 Conference Objectives


1.3 Participant expectations


1.4 Methodology


1.5 Conference Evaluation


Chapter Two: The Status of Access to Information.


2.0 The status of Access to Information in the World.


2.1 The status of Access to Information in the East Africa region and beyond


Chapter Three: Approaches to Advocacy


3.0 Challenges and solutions of the enactment of Freedom of Information


3.1 Effective FOI strategies


Chapter Four: Coalition Strengthening


Day two: Practical Approaches to effective strategies for ensuring the implementation of the Freedom of Information

Chapter Five: Gaps in Implementation























Regional Court



Social Services

Supreme Court




Nat. Exec.


Information Received


5.1 Gaps in implementation and practical solutions.


Chapter Six: Barriers to the Realization of Freedom of Information


Chapter Seven: Roles and Responsibilities of Civil Society and Government on Access to information 98Day three: Monitoring Government compliance on the Freedom of InformationChapter Eight: Effectively Handle a Culture of Secrecy


8.0 How to monitor information in a culture of secrecy- Usage of information

101 8.4 Skills on using modern ICT tools for monitoring Freedom of Information


Chapter Nine: Freedom of Information, the electoral process and elections in Africa


Chapter Ten: Designing an effective oversight mechanism South Africa Experience


Way forward



Day one: Advocacy Strategies for Securing the Enactment of Freedom of Information Legislation



The importance of this conference can not be overstressed. It addressed the most crucial issue of the day freedom of information- which interestingly continues to be alluded to by both it advocates and foes in glowing terms albeit for different reasons:

when information which properly belongs to the public is systematically withheld by those in power, the people soon become ignorant of their own affairs, distrustful of those who manage them, and eventually-incapable of determining their destinies

President Richard Nixon 1972

Freedom of information is not a mere abstract concept to be bandied about or something simply politically correct to say for public effect. It is a more serious matter that resonates in every facet of our lives and one that can make a difference in the lives of our constituents. We are not disinterested academics looking at a concept but activists engaged in a campaign to make freedom of information in regions a reality.

A conducive legal and institutional framework are a sine qua non for ensuring rule of law, good governance, constitutionalism as well as the promotion, protection and realization of human right. It is true in regard to freedom of information and is indeed the inspiration behind the work on the right of access to information in Uganda.

HURINET-U hosts the civil society coalition on freedom of information (COFI), which fervently advocated for the enactment of a conducive access to information legislation and is now rolling out a campaign for its implementation.

Active participation in the Conference helped to create strategies for the next steps of action for increased information flow as a way that enhanced citizen participation in government decision making processes. The Conference was a worthwhile experience where knowledge was gained, networks formed, and friendships made.

Welcome remarks by Mr. Mohammed Ndifuna

On behalf of the Chairman Board, HURINET, Mr. Mohammed Ndifuna, The National Coordinator (HURINET-U) welcomed all participants to the conference and thanked them for having honored the invitations sent to them. He thanked Open Society Justice Initiative, Open Society Initiative for East Africa, Africa Freedom of Information Centre, World Bank Institute for the support offered in organizing the conference.

Official Opening by Hon. Kirunda Kivenjinja, Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Information and National Guidance, Uganda

Rt. Hon. joined conference participants on the second day and noted that Uganda has already has the Access to Information Act (2005) and is leading in the East Africa region. He noted that access to information, that is in possession of the state or any organ or agency of the State is a constitutional right derived from Art. 41 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution which states that

Every citizen has a right of access to information and records in the possession of the State or any public body except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to the privacy of any other person.

He further observed that although the Act was passed in 2005 and came into effect on 20th April 2006, one of the areas which has delayed its effective implementation to date has been the absence of regulations to give people who want information, the procedure for accessing records from a public body hence guide the implementation of the law.

The Minister informed the Conference that the Directorate of Information is planning a consultative workshop on Monday April 28, 2008 to enable representatives of CSOs, public bodies, and development partners deliberate and come up with a consensus on the draft regulations. This he said would enable the Ministry, thereafter issue the relevant Statutory Instrument for the Regulations that will ease the procedure of accessing records that are not only in possession of the State but private bodies.

1.2 Conference Objectives

Expose participants to both current and effective strategies for ensuring the successful implementation of Freedom of Information legislation.

Build networks and increase collaboration.

Build strategies on learning/knowledge and sharing on freedom of information with a view to increase information flow on government decision making processes.

Design strategies for promoting FOI in East Africa and beyond.

1.3 Participant Expectations

To learn about the experience of African countries regarding FOI and exchange information.

Learn the gaps on implementation of FOI in Africa.

Learn advocacy strategies for use on FOI

Identify specific obstacles to effective implementation of the Access to Information Act.

Learn about current developments on FOI in the East African region.

Get skills on monitoring/evaluating Government compliance on FOI Law.

Understand legislation and its impact on Access to information in Uganda and the broader East African Region more especially Uganda.

Build a network of organizations involved in Freedom of Information advocacy. This is not only to share information but also to develop a strong demand from civil society for that purpose.

1.4 Methodology

The conference was largely participatory with participants responding to the various presentations made. Participants formulated strategies and made crucial recommendations to be used by Freedom of Information Advocates in their respects countries.

1.5Conference Evaluation

Participants were informed of both current and effective strategies for ensuring the successful implementation of Freedom of Information legislation.

Networks were built and collaboration were strengthened.

Strategies for promoting FOI in East Africa and beyond were developed and are yet to be adopted.


2.0 The Status of Access to Information in the World. Presented by Eszter Filippinyi, Programme officer Open Society Justice Initiative.

Only four countries in Africa have FOI Laws (Uganda, South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe). Most countries in Africa do not have a law on Access to Information which makes it very important to talk about the right to know.

Accesses to Information was first adopted by Sweden in 1766, and currently over 70 countries have Freedom to Information laws with Indonesia having passed hers in April 2008. Its imperative to note however that a lot needs to be done because adoption and implementation of this Law has increasingly become a real challenge. Countries with the FOI law find it hard to implement because there is not enough public awareness and use of the law, there is also lack of rules and regulations for implementation and awareness among government officials. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) stand to benefit from this Law and if they do not know how to use this laws then the Law remains a paper tiger. An other challenge is the harmonization of the FOI legislation wit other laws, that can easily undermine the free access, such us secrecy laws, data protection, archive law, media law.

A Network of Freedom of Information Advocates was created in 2002 and has members from all Continents, to share information on FOI related issues ( FOI have been developed, A similar Network will be created for the Africa Region, by the Africa Freedom of Information Center (AFIC), which will facilitate information and experience sharing among FOI groups (both in English and French).

When advocating for the adoption of a new FOI Law, setting principles of FOI (e.g.: Art 19 Principles on FOI, The Johannesbourg Principles, The Justice Initiative 10 Principles on the Right to Know, the Atlanta Declaration) is essential in setting basic standards for the FOI Law that is important in giving a basis for challenging helps both the Civil Society and the Government to focus on the main issues to be discussed and agreed in order to create a real access to information system.

Promoting of FOI standards can be done in many ways: by awareness raising campaigns, through the media, in trainings with CSO and Government, during lobbying and using strategic litigation at the national or at the international level (like using regional courts like the East African Court of Justice, or the Africa Commission, etc).

The struggle for Access to Information adoption is not only for developing countries but also the developed countries an example is of Britain that took 5 years to implement the law.

2.1 The status of Access to Information in the East Africa region and beyond 2.1.1 The Status of Access of Information Legislation Challenges in Uganda by Prof. Jjuko Faculty of Law, Makerere University.

Freedom of Information is adequate in terms of transparency and accountability. The law has a clear constitutional provision in Art.41 and Art.29. However, the right of information is restricted to the citizens right. The existence of Access to Information Act (2005) is not an indication that there is freedom to information.

The Ugandan Constitution made provision that parliament must make a law but it was made 10 years later and after the private members bill tabled in parliament and did not come into force until 2005 but is not effective due to lack of rules and regulations.

In the context of EA, the existence of the law may constitute a substantial milestone. The Access to Information has got the basic principles around the World and has a very wide definition but does not limit it to information but to record principles of liability.

The law does not have the basic principles like the principle of variability, and harm test. The Access to Information Law also excludes some important government organs like the cabinet, and judiciary.

The Information Officer do not have to demonstrate why information requests have been denied because its not provided for in the Law.

The Act does not also help accessibility of information held by private bodies.

In a culture of neo-liberalism and privatization of Government Institutions, access to information should be at hand with no procedural problems.

Procedural Challenges

The culture of official secrecy. It was not modified i.e. the Oath Act compel government officials to swear an oath of secrecy and criminalizes giving and publishing of information. The Oath Act provides a secrecy where the President has no perimeters on what can be a secret or not.

Practical problems

The regulations and rules were not made.

Lack of awareness on the rights of the people and obligations of government officials.













Lack of awareness on the side of CSOs.

Need to test the limits of the right on freedom of information.

In strategic litigation, with the lacking rules and regulations, the constitutional courts that are supposed to handle FOI cases are constrained with the Supreme court doing a little better.

Way forward

Ms. Cissy Kagaba of ACCU making a presentation during the East African and beyond Conference on FOI

Need to operationalize the law.

Awareness rising.

2.1.2 The Status of Access of Information Legislation Challenges in Kenya by Pricilla Nyokabi programmes Officer International Commission of Jurist.

Freedom of Information Bill in Kenya is under discussion and has been presented as a private members bill and was scheduled to be finalized before Kenya election. Specifically, it had been scheduled to be finalized during the 6th session of the 9th parliament on the week commencing 16th October 2007. However, parliament dissolved for elections.

There is no strong constitutional underpinning but the wording is in line with ICCPR. There is need therefore to reform the constitution.

There is an Official Secrecy Act which is the mother law that criminalizes disclosure of information and the public officials who join government even to those who are temporarily employed.

Kenya has many laws that hinder access of information in the country to include; the Fiscal Management Bill (2006), Judicial Services Bill (2007), Public Officers Ethics (2003), CDF Act (Amendment 2007), and Money Laundering Bill.

The Official Secrets Act criminalizes disclosure of all information.

In actual practice, a lot of information is available to the public in Kenya. Government ministries have websites, newsletters, Notice Boards. However, the concern is that the right of access is not consolidated into law and the practice is not standardized across all ministries.

Way Forward

Transparency has been identified as an item in the Peace Agreement reached after a disputed presidential election in Kenya.

Need for a constitutional review process.

Taking a Pro-Active Approach to the Right to Information: A Case of The Kenya Network of Grassroots Organizations (KENGO)


We disagree that structural issues on FOI are not the concern of the ordinary person. They are. The ordinary person when made to understand has not only the concern, but also a contribution to make. Our network consists of over 1300 groups run and managed by ordinary people who take the FOI issues very seriously. Their response to the FOI campaign has been swift and sustained. The network activities, save for the training and ODAC meeting facilitated by ICJ, has largely run the campaign with funds from member contributions and volunteerism.

The approach of the KENGO network includes:-

1. Raising the issues around information: Access, affordability, relevance and the relationship of information with effective provision of other services e.g. Free Primary Education, Public Service Commission, etc

2. Reducing the FOI draft bill into a manageable size: simplify, translate, distribute (we have a simple draft to explain to members what the law says) and have also got plenty of materials from the ICJ which we disseminate to network members

3. Linking secrecy and denial of information to the current crisis in the country, and linking the enactment of the FOI law to successful resolution of political and social crisis, especially on the land and electoral issues.

4. Beginning to implement the right to know: Our departure point is that the right to information is a human right, and from a right-based approach the network encourages members to make demands in order to:

(a) Bring pressure to certain offices: Huruma garbage collectors case: flood city council with members requesting the same information. Cripple certain offices with constant demands for information so that the departments consider it cheaper to provide the information

(b) Hold Peoples Tribunals on certain issues (Organize run and publicize open, unofficial and public information gathering processes on different issues with the limited information available. Our rationale is that if the people are involved, both the establishment and the political leadership will be inclined to participate either to correct information or to defend positions. Either way, it will force the release of information required by the people.

(c) Enjoin the campaign with activities that interest the public. For instance, our network is organising a soccer league for women over 40 years old. They are fun to watch, and the matches we have had so far have drawn crowds that we disseminate information to, which is why we take seriously the printing of handbills and simplifying the laws.

(d) Borrow and import successful programs that work in other countries. Borrowing from the Indian experience, we hope to institute public social audits on Devolved funds (in Kenya there are at least 17 devolved funds) Our network in the vast Kibera slums, for instance, after seeing the audits on food rations, are interested in holding similar audits on the cost of toilets in the slum which we estimate may be some of the most expensive toilets in world with each toilet in the Kibera slum being alleged to have been built using fund allocation from several devolved funds and sometimes up to 10 NGOs!

(e) Organise civic education processes directed to the grassroots. Currently using 2 documentaries from India and ODAC in South Africa as a pilot in our Nairobi networks. Present results are very promising.

(f) Creating a network of Peoples Platforms or Peoples Parliament open spaces for information exchange. In Kenya our network members have been and are a part of several Peoples Parliaments, including one that has met daily for the past 15 years.

5. Connecting FOI issues to our existing campaigns on trade (need to know what agreements, treaties and conditions exist for our government), debt (need to have public debt registers open), MDGs, Education, health, etc For example, last year during the global Stand Up Against Poverty campaign, our network held a procession in Nairobi on FOI as an important aspect of and weapon on the war against poverty.

6. Already lobbying for the law: Printing handbills for dissemination to the public.

7. Planning public information days: Days when the network will hold information market days our proactive measure to provide government and institutions with a platform to disseminate information. Absent the law, we hope we can work with different departments of government to provide a platform for engagement. We mobilize the public, they supply information. So far we have a good working relationship with the Ministry of Youth Affairs, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Planning and National Development.

8. Alongside the public platforms, develop public notice-boards where information gained can easily be posted for public access.

9. Planning on documenting peoples experiences with information access and creating a Media Centre for dissemination of information.

KENGO gains thus far:

Less than a year into FOI, we have:

1. Currently members of the FOI network in Kenya with an on-going FOI program for members

2. Had training for members and partners facilitated by the ICJ, and are part of the participants in the Village ICT initiative

3. Had a workshop with Mukelani Dimba of ODAC to share experiences with network members who are now using films (documentaries) from South Africa and India to organise for advocacy around FOI

4. Have network members participate in several national TV programs on FOI

5. Have held two processions on the FOI in the past 6 months

6. Have participated in the petition for FOI in the past parliament

7. Have on-going public screenings of the FOI documentaries in network meetings. With contributions from members we have acquired equipment to show the documentaries.

8. Have already started the work towards the creation of the documentaries having purchased a camcorder with member donations.

9. Have already started working on creation of 10 Peoples Platforms this year. To that end we have a website to facilitate the sharing of information:

10. Have developed a manual for the establishment of such platforms which we hope to distribute for members and any interested partners to use in developing similar platforms in their areas.

11. Have also developed a Mkutano Kijijini tool kit to enable members to organise, document and hold public information gathering meetings. The network currently holds public meetings- barazas on different issues.

12. Presently working on lobbying for the FOI bill, printing of handbills for dissemination to the public underway, regular meetings currently being held by network members, working towards action-based approach (Designated action days: Sit-ins in government offices, processions, direct lobbying of MPs, using the networks strength to initiate action in all regions)

13. Network and partner with government departments that are willing to work with us and showcase the positive results of partnership, the value of giving information and advantages of having information access, not just from government to the people, but also as a means for government departments to gain feedback from the people.

14. Working towards the creation of a Media for Peace and Development (MPD) Center for dissemination of materials gathered or created by the people. Provide a facility through which whistle-blowers can disseminate information with confidence and protection. Considering using an offshore website: already have a website

2.1.3 The Status of Access of Information in Tanzania by Mohammed Tibanyendera of Media Institute of South Africa- Tanzania


The introduction of multiparty democracy in the country in 1992 marked another step towards realization and enjoyment of basic human rights.

Since then, liberalization of economy has formed part of the major government plans and policies. A number of public corporations were privatized and transferred into the hands of foreign investors. In turn, the so called investors have started to control the national economy.

One of the impacts of economic liberalization of Tanzanian main economy was redundancy and unemployment. People started to question now and demanded information relating to how the national income is distributed, what rights people who became redundant and jobless have, how land is distributed and many other questions.

The role of the media has also changed from the one of informing, entertaining and educating. Media today has become the mouthpiece of majority Tanzanians who cannot access public information. The media has been engaged in setting the national agenda, stimulating national debates and conducting investigative stories relating to crimes of corruption and public fund embezzlement.

Although the media has taken much space in campaigning for access to information, other efforts have been taking place at both national and International level.

The adoption of the Windhoek Declaration in 1991 and the creation of both national and international bodies aimed to promote access to information in the region and has added value to the campaign.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) would be the right example to such efforts. It was established in 1992 following the Windhoek Declaration of Press Freedom that was made in 1991 by senior journalists and media practitioners within Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Status of Access to Information in Tanzania

It is my considered belief that the participants to this workshop are aware of basic international instruments governing Access to information. To mention just a few, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, 1981, and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa that was adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights during the 32nd Session, 17 - 23 October, 2002 at Banjul, Gambia.

The united Republic of Tanzania is a party to all the above- mentioned international instruments.

Back to the national context, the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977 (as amended in 2005) is a supreme guiding document on the subject. In its Article 9(f), the Constitution directs all government authorities to consider, whenever making any policies or in execution of their functions, that human right is respected in accordance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

Besides, Part three of the Constitution provides for the Basic rights and duties. Such rights and duties recognized in Part Three are enforced by courts in accordance to the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act, 1994 (Cap. 3, R.E. 2002). Article 18 of the Constitution, which falls in Part three as amended in 2005, provides that:

Every person

(a) has the freedom of opinion and expression;

(b) has the right to seek, receive and impart information regardless of national frontiers;

(c) has the freedom to communicate and has the right of not being interfered with in the course of his/ her communications; and

(d) has the right to be informed at all times of various events which are of importance to the lives and activities of the people and also of issues of importance to society.

Being the mother law of the land, the constitution has to be adhered to by all other written laws. Any provision of law that curtails the constitutional provision is subject to annulment by court order declaring the same to be unconstitutional. The procedure for such annulment and its impact on a respective law is provided by the Constitution and the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act, 1994 (Cap. 3, R.E. 2002).

Other Written Laws

In enforcing the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977, the government has attempted to enact various pieces of legislation with a view to promote or restrict access to information.

The regulation of media, both electronic and print media, through Acts of Parliament is a one of the attempts of the government to control access to information. The exercise of a constitutional right under Article 18 to access information through any medium of choice and without frontiers is governed by the media laws.

The Newspapers Act, 1976 (Cap. 229, R.E. 2002) is one of the leading media laws that govern print media. The Act contains various restrictions on the type of information that should be published through media. It proceeds by criminalising certain conducts that would otherwise be treated as civil wrongs (Torts). Defamation, for example, has been criminalized in Tanzania. Such wrong that deals with the attack to ones reputation is criminalized. Courts have used the provisions of the Act to award exorbitant damages to plaintiffs in defamation cases regardless of the fact that such people were public officials, in which case the public interest to know would be invoked.

Other offences such as sedition, inciting violence and publication of false news have been created by the Newspapers Act. Media is, therefore, obliged to conduct self censorship in order to avoid the commission of such offences. In so doing, the public could be denied their constitutional right to access information because of increased restrictions.

The Act also empowers the Minister to prohibit publication of newspaper when he is of opinion that it is in the public interest or in the interest of peace and good order so to do. The Law empowers the President, in his absolute discretion, to restrict importation of publication if he is of opinion that the importation of any publication would be contrary to the public interest.

The National Security Act, No. 3 of 1970 (Cap. 47, R.E. 2002) contains no specific meaning of the phrase national security. The interpretation may be drawn from what is stated to be classified matter/ information, the publication of which amounts to an offence against the Republic.

The National Security (Classified Matters) Notice, G.N. No. 133 of 1970 made under Section 2(1) of the Act, however, provides what are classified matters. They include all documents and letters prepared or addressed by or to or on behalf of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania or any specified authority and which are marked or stamped with the word "confidential" or "secret" or "top secret". Such words have been used on a number of documents to restrict public access to records and information in custody of the government or any specified authority. The procedure for stamping such documents is not specific.

The Public Service Act (Act No. 8 of 2002), Cap. 298 prohibit disclosure of information by Public servants and members of the Public service Commission to unauthorised person. Section 18 (3) requires that the provisions of the National Security Act should apply in relation to that offence. Both the person disclosing information and the person receiving information are criminally liable for an offence under Section 18 (1) and (2) of the Public Service Act.

The Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act (Act No. 13 of 1995), Cap 398 was enacted to establish code of ethics for certain public leaders, to provide for the organisation of the Ethics Secretariat and for related matters with or incidental to them. Section 4 of the Act provides a long list of Public leader.

The Act requires all public leaders to make declarations of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed to him, his spouse or unmarried minor children. (Section 9(1)) Section 20 of the Act requires a register of declarations made by public leaders. The Minister is empowered to make regulations to prescribe the manner in which members of the public shall inspect the register. (Section 20(3))

According to the Public Leadership Code of Ethics (Declaration of Interests, Assets and Liabilities) Regulations, G. Nos.108 of 1996 and 261 of 2001, members of the public may inspect the Register upon satisfaction of the conditions that a person wishing to make inspection has lodged with the Commissioner a complaint against a public leader; on his assessment, the Commissioner is satisfied that the complaint is genuine, relevant and was made in good faith; and an inspection fee of one thousand shillings has been paid. (Paragraph 6(1)

Paragraph 7 of the same Government Notice, however, prohibits any disclosure of information obtained from the register to other persons. Such a restriction overrides the overall purpose of disclosure as public leaders cannot be accountable to people. The conditions for inspecting the register itself bar public access. One must have, for instance instituted a case against a public leader. A question is how can one institute a case against such leaders and allege corruption or any other issue relating to properties or assets while he/she is not allowed to know the leaders properties at first instance.

The Films and Stage Plays Act (Act No. 4 of 1976), Cap 230 was enacted to provide for regulating the making of cinematography films, exhibiting of cinematography pictures and performance of stage plays and for the licensing of theatres and to provide for related matters.

No film should be made without permit granted by the Minister. A film permit, however, is not necessary for the making of a film by an amateur for private exhibition to his family and his friends. The Act also establishes the Central Censorship Board and every Regional Censorship Board. The Board is empowered to examine poster or description thereof and approve them for public exhibition.

Apart from the foregoing laws, a serious note should be taken in relation to the new forms of colonialism in the independent States. According to the General Loan and Stock Act (Ordinance No. 21 of 1948) Cap. 255 which is applicable only to the raising of loans in England, and nothing, loans under the Act are raised by debentures or stock. Section 4 of the Act requires the principal moneys and interest represented by the debentures or stock issued under the Act to be charged upon and payable out of the general revenue and assets of the United Republic. This is a liability to every Tanzanian and taxpayers at large.

Despite the fact that the liability is vested upon Tanzanian taxpayers, they have no access to the terms of the loan agreement entered. Moreover, the registry for such debentures is kept for that purpose at the office in London of the Crown Agents. Even the notice on debenture and stocks is supposed to be published in the newspapers circulating in London (the London Times newspaper). Only a few Tanzanian, if any, can access this newspaper to know what is happening to the debenture issued by Tanzanian Government.

This is a great limitation to accessing information. Why should information about Tanzanian government be published in foreign country and not within Tanzania? How can we eradicate poverty without being informed of liabilities vested on us through loans obtained by our Government- the government of the people?

The proposed government Bill on Freedom of Information in 2006 has enlightened a new era of Access to information. The proposed Bill that was developed by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports was seriously objected to by the stakeholders.

The main grounds for its objection were the departure from the existing international standards on Access to information regime. The proposed bill contained provisions that, if enacted into law, would have curtailed access to information held by public and private bodies than ever before in the history of Tanzania. It contained a lot of exemptions and the drafting was vague, thus containing loopholes during interpretation.

The Records and Archives Management Act, (Cap. 309, R.E. 2002) still maintains the thirty years rule restrictions to accessing public records.

Apart from the continued existence of laws that curtail access to information, Tanzanians have been able to access certain type of basic information through various means.

The information of Parliamentary debates is now aired live through the national Broadcaster (TBC) and other independent Television stations. Apart from media coverage of the Parliamentary debates, the effective uploading and downloading of information posted on Parliamentary website has enabled easy access to parliamentary Bills, hansards, update information, Committee Reports and photographs. Besides, one can access contact information for all Members of Parliament through such website.

The Government of Tanzania Website is also another opportunity for delivering information to the public. Both the website of the Cetral government and the Ministerial and Departmental websites are useful in delivering certain information. Such information as the procedure for Paying Taxes are found on the Tanzania revenue Authority website, Business Registration and Licensing information are found on the website of the respective authority.

The government has purposely promoted the use of computer related communications in the recent years. The use of ICT in delivering public information is seen as an opportunity to some Tanzanians.

Such approach, however, is tainted with the fact that the majority population of Tanzania live in rural areas where internet and ICT generally is still a dream leave alone the mobile telephone.

A survey that was conducted by IDASA/ODAC in collaboration with MISA-TAN in 2004 has indicated that accessing information in Tanzania by a normal citizen is difficult. It is easy for a few elites living in urban cities to access information because of the infrastructure available.

It is worth noting at this particular time that there is no Access to information legislation enacted in Tanzania yet.

The Practical Implications

Apart from the legal implications of Access to Information in Tanzania, there are some practical implications that hinder public access to information.

First, the persistent culture of secrecy amongst public officials had continued to govern their behavior on disclosing information.

Second, arrogances and lack of clarity on ones Terms of work have been mentioned as factors for non- disclosure of information. Some people are not conversant of what falls within and what falls outside their powers.

Third, fear to loose jobs has also contributed to certain extent. This is serious where no exact terms of reference, no specific Monitoring and evaluation system and where there is no rule of law. Guaranteeing access to information which the supervisory authorities think should not be disclosed might cost someone to lose the job.

Fourth, absence of communication policies in workplaces might also lead to receiving wrong information from the authorities. With the access to information policies, it is easy to avoid confusion on the mandate and powers to deliver information to the public.

Fifth, desire to remain in power has also been mentioned as one of the causes for not guaranteeing access to information. The people in authority would like to guarantee simple information which would not amount to criticism from members of the public. Where there is no criticism, it is easy to remain in power because no serious social challenges would be addressed against the government of the day. Many public leaders would prefer leading ignorant population.

Finally, persistence of crimes such as corruption, graft and embezzlement of public funds would as well favour non- disclosure of information. Guaranteeing access to information would be used to reveal such crimes, this distrust to the government of a day.

It is with the support of joint efforts of citizens together with the government and other partners that we can achieve the desired objectives of access to information as recognized by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 59 (1) passed in 1946 where it is stated:

Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the UN is consecrated

A short account of Access to Information campaign in Tanzania is made from 2006 when the government of Tanzania published its proposed Freedom of Information Bill, 2006. Media Stakeholders organized themselves and held a one day encounter at the Sea Cliff Hotel, Dar es Salaam on December 13th 2006 to discuss the government proposed Bill.

After having expert analysis of the Bill, media stakeholders resolved not to accept the Bill as it was. Instead, three media related organizations; Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), Media Institute of Southern Africa Tanzania Chapter (MISA-TAN) and Tanzania Media Womens Association (TAMWA) were asked to mobilize their resources and join to campaign for a better freedom of Information legislation, thus objecting the government proposed Bill.

Such resolution gave strength to the establishment of the Freedom of Information campaign Coalition in Tanzania. Other organization took interest and joined the coalition to make the total coalition members eleven as of now. Other member organizations are the Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC), Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Tanzania gender Networking Programme (TGNP), Tanzania Legal Education Trust (TANLET), and Media Owners association of Tanzania and the National Organization for Legal Assistance. Others are Article XIX (based in the United Kingdom) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiatives CHRI (based in India).

The Coalition has undertaken the campaign since 2006 to date. Two stakeholders proposed Bills were developed as an alternative to the government bill. These are the Right to information Bill, 2007 that was submitted to government in August 2007 and the Media Services Bill, 2008 which is at its final stage.

Stakeholders inputs have been solicited and obtained throughout the country. A team of lawyers has been maintained in Tanzania which made a tremendous job of tireless drafting and consideration of new inputs at each stage. The Lawyers Team is lead by a senior law lecturer at the faculty of Law, Dr. Edmund S. Mvungi, who is also here with us.

The Coalition has successfully managed to stop the government move to table the Freedom of information Bill to Parliament in April 2007 until now. Instead, the government has officially appreciated the efforts done by the coalition thus promising to honour the stakeholders inputs as soon as the Media Services Bill is completed on the part of stakeholders.

You will note that for about two years now, the Coalition has been engaging in developing the stakeholders alternative proposals. This is basically an intellectual input to the campaign that needs to be addressed with caution. Whatever the stakeholders wish to propose to government must get the support of people being represented. That component is one of the issues that would now lead us to the other topic on the problems faced on Access to information campaign.

Challenges on Access to information Legislation

Campaigning for an access to information legislation is not an easy task. There are a number of challenges to that. Such challenges include:

(i) Creating Public Awareness of Access to information

There is a need to create public awareness of what is access to information and its connection to their daily lives. People need to see it being done and not to see what is ought to be done. The demands to know and the knowledge how to imply the information obtained in solving social, economic and political problems facing different people at different stages of life need to be addressed. The message must be clear and unambiguous to specific group of people or community.

Lack of Public awareness could be a dangerous tool against an ATI campaign it different messages or ambiguous messages are being sent to public.

In Tanzania, for example, while the Coalition was sending out messages to communicate the importance of a better access to information regime, some members of the public and sometimes from the same organizations forming up the coalition would also send out different messages that were confusing.

(ii) Mobilizing people in action

There is a need to mobilize people in action. Those running an ATI campaign must be able to identify their allies and mobilize them together with other people in order to form a strong majority support movement. Mobilizing people in action need to be done strategically. In our coalition, we were able to assign various duties to different people within the coalition. Where necessary, the support of members of political parties, Legislators and grassroots people would be involved to make the message well delivered.

Measures must be taken to make sure no important stakeholders are left behind.

(iii) Putting pressure on government

There is a need to put pressure on the government and decision makers in order to promote access to information. We are all aware that most governments in the world, including the US government, are not ready to guarantee maximum disclosure of information. Unless there is consistent pressure from the stakeholders, the government would not grant access to information.

The local and foreign media outlets must be utilized in delivering the campaign materials to public. A media strategy could be the best methodology if well designed in order to maintain the pressure.

Members of the campaign team should as well avoid issuing contradictory and ambiguous statements to the public.

(iv) Funding

An Access to information campaign is one of the costly campaigns.

The organizations undertaking the campaign must try to mobilize resources to support the campaign activities.

Without funding, an ATI campaign could easily fail because of fund. In order to achieve the desired objectives, funding is unavoidable for an ATI campaign. We need fund to make publications and publicity, organize workshops and communication.

(v) Resistance to change

In certain occasions, the people in authority might be well aware of the importance of access to information legislation. However, due to a number of factors such as culture of secrecy, fear of losing power, arrogance or any other reason best known to them, they might form a stumbling block to the campaign.

In Tanzania, those who are normally opposing the idea of having the best FOI legislation are people who were previously campaigning for the same legislation.

2.1.4 The Status of Access of Information in Rwanda by Paul Mutagoma of Youth Association for Human Rights Promotion and Development

General context

The Rwandese context of the freedom of information can be discussed by looking at 2 different perspectives related to how one can access the information and how can one enjoy the right of giving information. This goes two ways the Information Officer to Channel the information and the community or citizens who benefit from the information.

Information has been availed to the community through a multiplicity of radio stations and a variety of newspapers.

However, the regulation of information flow is controlled by the Government within the Ministry of information which works hand in hand with the High Press Council, Rwanda Journalists Association, and different other bodies. In Rwanda, there are other provisions of which promoting the freedom of information has been done. The Government has ratified international instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Treaty, Civil and Political Rights Treaty, and African charter for Human and Peoples Rights.

Though Rwanda has not Law on Access to Information yet, the review of the existing legislation is ongoing and the draft is already at Parliament level and different activities are undertaken to lobby and advocate for an accurate and appropriate legislation.

However, different mechanisms are used to ensure the access to the information: Press conference are held monthly by the President of the Republic and Ministers, there is an Accountability Day where government officials (especially at the central and local levels have to explain how they handle issues related to their offices, Government action is controlled by Parliament, Institutions like the office of the ombudsman, the National Commission for Human Rights, etc.

FOI challenges in the East African Community context.

The East African Community meets a number of challenges when advocating for FOI implementation and a number of these include;

Language barrier





































South Africa



The illiteracy level of the East African Community population

Insufficient financial support.

Insufficient infrastructure.

Insufficient skills of FOI Advocates and the Media.

Lack of public awareness

Mr. Ahamed Faisol of Indonesia sharing their FOI experience to the audience

These challenges have got implications in the implementation of the FOI Law;

Credibility of received information


Lack of protection for whistle blowers


Strengthening capacity of CSOs for monitoring and evaluation tools when it comes to holding government officials for giving information

Awareness rising for communities to make local leaders accountable

2.1.5 The Status of Access of Information in Ghana by Florence Nakazibwe, CHRI, Ghana Office.

The Right to Information in Ghana is a constitutionally guaranteed right enshrined under Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution which provides that;

All persons have the right to Information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.

It is on this basis that the exercise of the Right to Information is considered to be a substantive right to be enjoyed by all persons subject only to lawful and justified exceptions.

Attempts to put this right into effect emerged in 2002, when the Government through the Attorney-General/Ministry of Justice drafted the RTI Bill, specifying among others procedures governing access to official information by the public, obligation to publish, procedures for accessing information held by Government as well as private bodies, (that is in 3 instances; protection of fundamental human right, preservation of private safety and protection of public interest), time limits for disclosing information, reviews and appeals and the creation of an oversight body for the enforcement of the law. However, whereas the Bill incorporated some of the basic provisions of a model law, the draft fell short of international best standards in many respects such as; broad exemptions that undermined the full enjoyment of the rights, expensive fees structures, weak penalties and the lack of an effective independent enforcement organ to mention but a few.

This status-quo compelled various civil society organizations to combine efforts through the framework of the RTI Coalition, Ghana to serve as a civil society monitoring group advocating for the adoption by the Government of a comprehensive access regime that compiles with international standards. The Coalition was established in 2003, comprising of a few CSOs, working on good governance with the objective of promoting enhanced accountability and transparency in public organs, resolved to undertake an advocacy campaign towards the adoption of the Bill.

In 2004, following the decision to form a Coalition and pursue the adoption of the RTI Bill on the Executive agenda, a needs-assessment was carried out in Ghana through a survey funded by Open Society Justice Initiative, which was intended to measure the level of access that Ghanaians had to important, non-sensitive government information. Under this survey, a total of 142 requests for information were submitted to various government institutions. Of this, 124 represented requests for information with the remaining 18 representing promotional requests. The outcome of the survey revealed that approximately 70% of the total requests submitted met with mute refusals, 4% of the requests were not accepted and 3% orally refused. Only 7% of the requests were sufficiently granted in a timely manner. These results indicate the inadequate level of information disclosure practiced by the Ghanaian government agencies and thus indicates the relevance of having a RTI law in place.

Following this outcome, the Coalition decided to embark on an intensive advocacy campaign through targeted advocacy and educational programs highlighting the necessity of the Bill to the nations democratic governance by citing the results of the survey as indicative of the gaps in information access by the public.

Similarly, as part of its activities, the Coalition among others, decided to embark on a campaign to influence the review of the Bill into a model law based on established principles of international best practice and facilitate its passage into binding law. These principles are as follows:

a. Maximum disclosure




















TotalWith FOI LawWithout FOI Law

oral refusal



information not held

and transfer/referral

(where non-compliant)


unable to submit and

refusal to accept

Mute Refusal

Obligation to publish

c. Limited scope of exceptions

d. Standardized process to facilitate access

e. Minimal fees for access

f. Open meetings

g. Disclosure takes precedence

h. Promotion of open government

i. Protection for whistleblowers

Executive Commitment to FOI

It must be noted that the Governments action in drafting the initial Bill on RTI demonstrated the strongest commitment so far expressed

Mr. Edetaen Ojo narrates to the conference the Nigerian context on Freedom of Information

by the Executive in relation to FOI. Although the Bill did not meet the requisite minimum standards, taking action to draft the Bill was a fair illustration of minimum support from the Government albeit overtime, this zeal is seemingly wavering.

The purpose of the Bill is to give substance to the Constitutional provision by providing for

a.) Access to official information held by government agencies, and

b.) The qualifications and conditions under which the access should be granted.

In 2004, the Government of Ghana committed itself to the World Bank, that it would enact an FOI Law as part of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy emphasizing that having such a law in place was essential in addressing the nations developmental concerns. A similar position was expressed by Ghanaian President J.A. Kufour, during his State of the Nation Address in 2005 when he stated that the Government was committed to pass the FOI law as a matter of priority. In that same year however, the only progress that was registered on the Bill was, simply to review it in light of suggestions made by civil society, through a Critique that was drafted and submitted by the Coalition on the RTI, Ghana.

The Critique among others highlighted the need to narrow the exemptions subject to the harms test, which was applied inconsistently, that is to some and not to all provisions such as broad exemptions of information relating to national security as well as information held by the Executive. The need to reduce the timeframes within which, applications for requests for information are responded to, that is a reduction from 30days to 14 days, the creation of an efficient and independent review mechanism and an independent enforcement body among others.

Some recommendations such as timeframes were addressed but most absurd was the elimination of private bodies from being bound by the provisions of the Bill, meaning that although the publics right to information had been granted, it was only limited to information held by government agencies and not private bodies even those operating as government agencies.

In 2007, the Coalition through its Secretariat, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Africa office, organised an African Regional Conference on FOI with participants from various Commonwealth countries to share experiences, highlight FOI trends in Africa and address key FOI issues. The event obtained considerable media attention especially on the local scene following calls by the minority leader in Parliament to pass the FOI law of Ghana without further delay. Two days after the event, the Government issued a statement in the media stating that Ghanas RTI Bill had been forwarded to a Commissioner responsible for Statute Law Revision, to review it and collect views from the public regarding the Bill.

However, it was still of concern that despite such pronouncements, the President went ahead to state that Ghana was not yet ready to pass the FOI law claiming the lack of appropriate structures. This was similarly endorsed by the AG and his Deputy who claimed the lack of resources was justifiable for a delay in the passage of the Bill. This was a week after former President Obasanjo of Nigeria had vetoed the Nigeria FOI Bill on mere technicalities.

On September 28th, 2007, RTK Day, the Coalition met with the Commissioner in a symbolic event to mark the celebrations by submitting another set of critiques and recommendations for his consideration. The critique outlined a total of 10 points stating the various provisions that needed to be reviewed such as the fees structure, an independent review and enforcement body, penalties, application of the Bill to private bodies among others.

The Commissioner has recently finalised his review of the Bill in which he addressed some of the concerns of the Coalition regarding the Bill most importantly the need to lessen the AGs powers due to the existing conflict of interest, by establishing the need for the AG to consult with the Public Services Commission and the head of the Civil Service in the implementation of the Bill.

The Coalition has in the past met with the Parliamentary Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee which expressed interest in the Bill but echoed fears of its implications on the disclosure of information on national security and the need to safeguard such information from non-disclosure in the overall interest of the public.

In practice, without the RTI law, administrative secrecy still operates to undermine the publics right to information. This is worsened by existing laws such as the Oaths Decree, Evidence Decree, State Secrets Act, Public Records Archives Administration Act and the Internal Revenue Act, which all uphold the notion of official secrecy to forestall public access to information within their custody. Mining contracts for instance have been noted as a notorious example for including non-disclosure provisions that undercut the principle of maximum disclosure. The Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative, under the Publish what you pay campaign, spearheaded a movement promoting disclosure of information relating to mining activities.

Most recently in March, 2008 the AG, following an enquiry posed by an opposition member of Parliament, issued a statement in Parliament regarding the Governments position on the RTI law, stating that the Bill is in the advanced stages of its conclusion but deliberately omitted to specify when the Government plans to forward the Bill to Parliament.

It is worth noting that for over 6 years since the first executive draft of the RTI Bill, the Bill has still not moved beyond the very institution that drafted it, the AGs. This prolonged delay more than illustrates that whereas the Government is not entirely opposed to the Bill, there is a looming reluctance to enact it as a matter of priority.

To date, the public is not sure whether the Kufuor Government intends to pass the legislation before leaving power or not. Suffice to note that the first quarter of the year, 2008 has thrown up a number of debates relating directly to the issue of FOI such as the acquisition of a Presidential Jet, details of which were not clear to the Public and Parliamentarians, the Oil Discovery debate and the need for transparency in its exploitation. But these have still not persuaded the Government into prioritising the passage of the Bill.

Coalition Profile

The RTI Coalition, Ghana has been in the forefront of the campaign for the enactment of the RTI Law. The Coalition among others, has taken proactive measures to disseminate information relating to the relevance of the Bill to cross sections of the Ghanaian community through workshops, dialogues with Cabinet members, Parliamentarians, news articles among others. This has had some impact witnessed in the growing public discussions on FOI as one of the key national priority issues.

This year, the Coalition has purposed to undertake a high-level advocacy campaign targeted at political forums for Presidential and Parliamentary aspirants to obtain their specific commitments to the Bill. This has included having on-on-one meetings with Political parties manifesto drafting committees, where the Coalition has submitted memorandum and possible texts on FOI to be incorporated in their manifestoes. Out of this interaction, so far two public commitments have come from presidential aspirants: Papa Kwesi Ndoum CPP Flag bearer and Edward Mahama of the PNC. The New Patriotic Party agreed to include FOI in its manifesto but it is yet to be made public. The NDC is the only party yet to make a public statement on its position on the law.

The Coalition has further deepened its engagement with the media, as key partners and stakeholders in the advocacy campaign by disseminating information to educate the media on the value of FOI to their work and to the public at large. On March 28th, 2008 Coalition representatives made a statement at the Ghana Journalists Association Annual General Meeting urging the media to join the Coalitions advocacy efforts. This had the effect of bringing on board a large number of editors, reporters, radio producers and mainstream journalists stationed in various parts of Ghana to widen the campaign beyond the confines of Accra.

A major shortcoming of the Coalition is its narrow base, and lack of grassroots representation. It has therefore been proposed to conduct a nation-wide campaign and expand the Coalitions membership to organizations operating in the regions so as to strengthen its impact country-wide by building a strong network of organizations to spearhead the advocacy campaign.

Within this ambit, the Coalition plans to hold a national training conference on FOI for the broad membership with the objective of building consensus on how to undertake the campaign by enhancing the advocacy skills of all members and ensuring consistency by all members in the advocacy process.

The Coalition has also maintained as part of its key objectives, networking and strengthening its ties with advocates in and outside Ghana. For instance, at the UNCTAD XII CSO Forum, the Coalition organised a Panel Discussion under the theme; Promoting access to information as a cornerstone for development, with participants from different countries and issued a statement within the CSO Declaration calling upon UNCTAD member states to adopt FOI as part of national development agenda.

RTI Coalition Objectives

1. Strengthen the RTI Coalition into a permanent civil-society organization, independent of donor support and dedicated to giving Ghanaians their constitutional right to information. Once the RTI legislation is passed, the Coalition will fall into a civil society monitoring role.

2. The successful passing of the proposed RTI legislation with amendments to conform to international standards. The legislation should embody the nine principles necessary for RTI legislation to conform to international best practices.

3. Broad societal acceptance of the RTI legislation and understanding of the law and its usage to the public. Increased awareness that a government has a duty to provide information to the people it governs.

RTI Coalition Strategic Plan;

1. Write a proposed amendment to the RTI Bill and have it sent to Cabinet. Currently, the Coalition is in the process of completing another section by section critique of the Bill to be forwarded to the Statute Review Commissioner.

2. Lobby media outlets to play a heavier role in Coalition activities.

3. Lobby Cabinet through advocacy meetings to increase awareness on the shortcomings of the bill. Meetings with Cabinet members such as Minister of Finance, the Presidents chief Advisor, Minister of Information, Minister of Defence and Parliamentarians to garner support for the law. The end-goal of such advocacy would be to have the Bill sent back to the Attorney General to be re-drafted.

4. On the Political front, the Coalition is also engaging with Presidential aspirants through agents in the public such as youth, who have been provided questions on FOI to pose to the aspirants.

5. Compose research papers to be used as advocacy tools on the four specific areas regarding the new legislations:

a. The harmonization of existing law, such as the Oaths Decree, with the proposed RTI legislation.

b. The shortcomings of the proposed legislation when compared to international best practices. An extension of the Consolidated Critique.

c. The reforms needed in record-keeping and information sharing between ministries and other areas to ensure smooth implementation of the proposed legislation.

d. The role of the Attorney General in monitoring the implementation of the new legislation and the potential conflict of interest therein.

6. The dissemination of the above research papers at workshops specifically tailored to different groups of stakeholders such as parliamentarians, civil servants and the media.

7. Public campaigns; the month of May has been scheduled for a number of public events such as May 1st, 2008 Labour Day where a public march by civil servants shall be made and a statement issued to the President, which shall incorporate the need to prioritize the RTI Bill. May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day has also been selected for the Coalition working with the Ghana Journalists Association, to celebrate the day.

2.1.6 The Status of Access to Information and Challenges in Nigeria Presented by Edetaen Ojo Executive Director, Media Rights Agenda- Lagos


The Nigerian Constitution does not provide a strong constitutional basis for access to information as it only guarantees a general right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, a range of existing laws create a harsh legal environment for access to information as they prohibit the disclosure of information held by government bodies.

The campaign for the adoption of a Freedom of Information law in Nigeria is now in its 9th year. The Freedom of Information Bill, which was first initiated in 1999, is the oldest Bill pending before Nigerias National Assembly.

The Bill was passed by both chambers of Nigerias bicameral Legislature during the last administration and was presented in March 2007 to then President Olusegun Obasanjo for assent for it to become Law.

In April 2007, a civil society delegation met with the former President in an effort to persuade him to sign the Bill into Law. The former President declined based on some reservations he claimed he had in three areas of the Bill, namely:

Section 1: The Short Title of the Bill - Freedom of Information Act

Former President Obasanjo said he was opposed to the title of the Bill and would prefer that it should be called Right to Information Act because, according to him, Freedom is absolute, while Right comes with responsibilities.

Of course, the short title of the Bill is hardly of any significance and it was difficult to see how this could have informed his refusal to assent to the Bill.

The long title of the Bill states its purpose quite clearly with no ambiguity whatsoever. It states that it is A Bill for an Act to make public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes and related purposes.

Section 13(1): The head of a government or public institution may refuse to disclose any record, the disclosure of which may be injurious to the conduct of international affairs or the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The former President said he was concerned that the Bill only excludes from public access records which may be injurious to the defence of Nigeria, but did not also exclude records which may be injurious to the security of Nigeria.

Our view within the Freedom of Information Coalition is that the current text of the Bill adequately protects Nigerias potentially sensitive defence records and information.

Besides, the protection of the internal and external security of Nigeria is also covered by the National Security Agencies Act, which is one of the laws entrenched in Section 315(5) of the Nigerian Constitution.It extends to the protection of the documents and other acts relating to the security of Nigeria. The actions of the national security agencies established under the Act are protected from judicial scrutiny. In effect, the former Presidents concerns are adequately addressed both under the Bill as well as under the National Security Agencies Act.

Section 13(2): However, in the interest of the public the court may override the refusal by the head of the government or public institution to disclose the information applied for.

The former President was concerned that with this provision, the courts are given the power to review any decision by the head of a public institution not to disclose any information and as such, heads of public institutions can be compelled by the courts to disclose any information which they would otherwise not want to disclose.

President Obasanjos view suggests that he does not believe that the refusal of a government institution to disclose any record or document under the proposed Law should be subject to judicial review to determine whether there is a public interest in the information being released.

Such a position is obviously untenable under a democratic form of government. One of the cardinal principles of the doctrine of separation of powers is the inherent powers of the courts to review administrative decisions not only to ensure that they are consistent with the Law, but also to prevent arbitrariness and abuse of power. The notion that the decision of a public officer can never be questioned in a court of law has no place in a democracy, particularly where that public officer is elected to serve the people.

Our position is that generally agreed the principles of freedom of information Laws include both the right of the courts to review all decisions of an administrative body and the consideration of overriding public interest in determining whether any information should be released, even if it ordinarily falls within the exemptions.

Current Status of the Bill

Following the refusal by President Obasanjo to assent the Bill, it is going through the legislative process afresh in the new National Assembly that was inaugurated in June 2007. Fortunately, unlike in the past when it took five years for the process to be concluded in the lower chamber before the Bill was transmitted to the upper legislative chamber which took nearly three years, the Bill is now being dealt with simultaneously by both chambers. The process has been relatively quick in both chambers and the Bill in now approaching its final stages in each of the chambers.

There are also positive noises emanating from the Presidency indicating that the new President, Umaru YarAdua intends to sign the Bill into Law when it finally comes before him.

However, it is fair to say that despite the delays, the efforts of the last eight years have been worth it. The campaign has caught public attention and the Bill is now squarely on the agenda of public discourse. It is one of the most talked about issues in Nigeria today. Newspapers have written more editorial comments on the Bill than on any other single issue of public interest in Nigeria in the last eight years.

It is now fashionable for public officers, both within the Executive and the Legislature, to publicly express their support for the Bill and give assurances that it will soon be adopted, evidently because of their assessment of the public mood with regard to the Bill.

The heavily subscribed Freedom of Information Coalition listserv is now arguably the most vibrant platform for debating issues of transparency and accountability in government as well as corruption in Nigeria


The main challenge at the moment is that despite the existence of a broad-based Freedom of Information Coalition, capacity within civil society to advocate in support of the Bill is severely limited. Very few members have the skills to carry out effective advocacy on the Bill. Fewer still have sufficient knowledge of the content of the Bill and related issues to speak confidently about it and respond to queries beyond merely calling for its passage.

In the post-enactment period, challenges to effective implementation would include:

The poor state of record keeping and management in Nigerian public institutions

A deep-seated resentment among civil servants and public officials for transparency and openness, accentuated by decades of operating in secrecy.

What appears to be culture of excessive deference to authority among the vast majority of Nigerians and reluctance to question those in power.

2.1.7. The Status of Access to Information in Cameroon presented by Agnes EBOO of Citizens Governance Initiative (CGI) Cameroon.

Refusal to accept





Oral refusal


Written refusal









not held


Partial access


Mute refusal


Unable to Submit


Cameroon has got no law on Access to Information and a total secrecy and closeness on the Law. The Government is very active in arresting those involved in graft. In a bid to graft Access to Information into Law, a campaign is being undertaken. A study was commissioned on Access to Information that started in November. The study was carried out with support from Open Society Justice Initiative with the aim of finding out how the situation was in the country. The study revealed the situation not to be as bad as earlier thought and also indicated that there was a legislation on archives and many others which could be used as a starting point to advocate for FOI. It was however noted that though specific issues are covered on the different legislations on Access to Information, both the Public and Government Institutions are ignorant off them.

International treaties, provisions in the African Charter and the Universal Declarations on Human Rights have continuously been used in Cameron as venues under which information can be accessed. The constititution integrates international treaties thus becoming a block.

Ms. Agnes Eboo talks of the Cameroon experience on Access to Information at the conference

The concern in Cameroon as follows;

There are good laws in the country but the challenge is implementation. The most common argument is professional argument to confidentiality. In most cases, you have to pay for the information or you have to know somebody in high office to access information.

Language barrier is another challenge. Cameroon is a bi-lingual country with two languages i.e. French and English. This has increasingly made accessibility and understanding of information difficult.

Lack of Infrastructure-like no availability of photocopies has hindered the access of information.

Constitutional amendments affected the campaign on the passing of the bill on Freedom of information.

Government only acts when under International pressure.

Strategy to adopt

To have strong diplomatic skills with the aim of getting the Executive to advocate for the Access to Information Act. In Cameroon, Parliament cannot be relied on because there has never been a private members bill in the history of Cameroon parliament.

2.1.8 The Status of Access to Information in South Africa presented by Mukelani Dimba Open Democracy Advice Centre- Cape Town

From the colonial past to apartheid, the South African Government came up with Official Secrets Act of 1956 and Protection of Information Act of 1982

On Freedom to Information, Governments response to requests for information has been suppression of access to information on social, economic, and security matters, Security operations were shrouded in secrecy and Government officials frequently responded to queries either with hostility or with misinformation.

In the advocating for the implementation of Freedom of Information the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) can not be ignored. The Constitution Section 33 states that; Everyone has a right to just administrative action... PAJA says, People have a right to:

Fair, lawful and reasonable administrative action

Reasons for administrative action that affects them negatively

South African Experience

The bill of rights

The bill of rights and the constitution uphold the right of access to any information held by the state or any information that is held by another person that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights

The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2000 (PAIA)

The Act came into force on 19 March 2001

Protection of Information Bill

The Bill was introduced by the Minister of Intelligence in 19 March 2008.

FOI/RTI activists are concerned that the provisions of the bill may be in conflict with the Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Protected Disclosures Act.

2.2.10 The Status of Access to Information in Madagascar presented by Brice Lejamble of Comit pour la Sauvegarde de lIntgrit, Madagascar

In July 2003 a Committee Conseil Suprieur de Lutte Contre la Corruption (CSLCC) was formed and was in charge of developing anti-corruption strategy, legal framework and independent agency. Since March 2006, the committee has worked as a coaching key institution in integrity reform.

The public is ignorant of th Access to information Law; those who know about it consider it to be

a liberal or restrictive law ?

FOI Advoacates should work at making, citizens stakeholders

transparency=> decisions understood and accepted

building confidence between public service and citizens

International commitments of Madagascar;

United Nations against corruption, article 10 : enhance transparency in its public administration (signed june 2004)

African Union Convention against corruption, article 9: access to all informations to help fighting against corruption (signed june 2004)

Outside reasons;

International trend since the 90s

40 countries have a law on access to information

Is it necessary to draft a law ?

Yes, because public services are unwilling to disclose their documents

A law would transform a favor into a right

Current Situation

Draft law still waiting for authorities approval

Civil society to commit

Linked with code of communication (media concern)

A liberal or restrictive law ?

comparison of laws in differents countries : some countries have a very liberal law (USA, Sweden). Others have a restrictive law (Romania, Poland)

choosing the happy medium suitable for Madagascar

Define mechanisms of access to information

Who can access ?

With what procedure ?

How to manage denial ?

Next Steps.

Spread the project through civil society

Lobbying among Parliament

Launch a public campaign

2.1.11 The status of Access to Information: The Zambian Experience Presented by Fanwell Chembo Media Institute of South Africa- Tanzania