SALC was one of over 200 participants at the Africa Information and Media Summit (AIMS) that convened as a special session to adopt the Declaration of an African Platform on Access to Information this past weekend. This in a series of events that took place in Cape Town between 17-19 September 2011.
The three day event kicked-off with a joint opening ceremony of the Pan African Congress on Access to Information and Highway Africa 2011. Speakers at the ceremony included H.E Mrs Julie Joiner, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs and a video message from Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa.
Through the various panel discussions at the conference, South Africa’s Protection of Information Bill, that was to be tabled before South Africa’s parliament, remained a concern for the advocates of open governance, transparency and accountability who were present. Having the South African DDG in the Ministry of State Security, Dennis Dlomo at hand to take questions from participants proved very useful. The ANC later announced that they would not present the bill before parliament.
The AU’s Habiba Mejri-Cheikh launced the Pan-African Media Network Project. The PAMEN platform is an African Union initiative, run by the African Forum for Media Development of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and the African Media Initiative (AMI). It is to serve as an interface between the organs of the AU and the media.
The highlight of the weekend however, was the adoption of the declaration by an overwhelming majority. The AU Special Rapportuer on Access to Information, Adv Pansy Tlakula is seen here signing the document. There was only one vote against its adoption. The participant concerned refused to adopt the declaration asserting that a (un-named) member of the working committee which prepare the draft declaration has repeatedly refused to apologise for crimes of aparteid, before he shouted out “AMANDLA!”.
The call “AMANDLA!” sets the right tone for FOI advocates who adopted the declaration. For us, the struggle for increased transparency and improved access to state held information does indeed continue. Only, we are now armed with one more legal document that provides clarity on the right of access to information and the obligations it imposes on states and private actors.