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Access to information is a fundamental human right - AU

Sep 20, 2011, 12:45 PM

The African Union (AU) took part on Saturday September 17, 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa, in the official opening ceremony of the first edition of the Pan-African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI) and the 15th meeting of Highway Africa. These two events are of paramount importance to media development in Africa.

These two major pan-African conferences are historical for African media, given the role that media and social networks have played in the recent uprisings in North Africa, and which resulted in unexpected political transitions and the establishment of institutions compliant with the demand for transparency and governance by the people.

The ultimate goal of PACAI is to launch a continent-wide instrument to advocate for access to information through the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI)

Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the AU, in her message delivered to participants on behalf of the Chairperson of the AUC, Dr. Jean Ping, emphasized the commitment of the AU to promote access to information as part of freedom of expression and as a cornerstone of the inalienable freedoms and rights.

In this context, Mrs. Joiner stressed that access to information is not only the case of the media, it should also challenge the African citizens who are the primary actors in participatory democracy. “Access to information is not only important for human dignity but also for participation, accountability and democracy…Access to information is a human right”, she emphasized.

Africa is witnessing an unprecedented moment because of the technological revolution introduced by social media. However, Mrs. Joiner said that, despite the promises and progress already made on freedom of the press, expression and access to information, many cloudy areas remain.

“In the post Windhoek Declaration era… more still has to be done in order for media to play its rightful role in our African societies”. The AU has enshrined the right to information and freedom of expression in many of its texts. In accordance with these instruments, Mrs. Joiner said the AU Commission is committed to working more closely with African civil society organizations to promote greater access to information

Commissioner Joiner hoped that the final declaration of the conference will be a strong instrument in accordance with the texts of the AU relating to the “right to development”.

“It is the AU’s expectation, that the coming three days will enable our gathering to come up with… a declaration…, not with the objective to name, blame and shame, but to assist our states in promoting access to information as a right to all Africans,” she said.