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Press Release

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Edetaen Ojo

Tel: 01-761 6803

E-mail: edet@mediarightsagenda.net

 Signature Campaign Launched for African Platform on Access to Information

LAGOS, WEDNESDAY, 28 SEPTEMBER 2011:  On the occasion of this year’s International Right to Know Day, the Windhoek+20 Campaign on Access to Information in Africa is today launching a continent-wide signature campaign in support of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), a landmark Declaration adopted in Cape Town, South Africa, last week.

Media Rights Agenda (MRA), a member of the Working Group of the Windhoek+20 Campaign, is calling for endorsement of the Declaration by Nigerian organizations and institutions, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), professional associations, trade unions, corporate bodies, media organizations, networks, coalitions, Legislatures and legislative committees as well as other government institutions and agencies.

The Declaration was proposed by the Pan African Conference on Access to Information (PACAI) held in Cape Town, South Africa, from September 17 to 19, 2011 and organized by the Windhoek+20 Campaign in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Declaration contains a set of 14 “Key Principles”, outlining some of the most critical issues and standards relating to access to information laws and their implementation. These are then followed by a section on “Application of Principles” in recognition of the fact that the principles are essential to development, democracy, equality and the provision of public service. The Declaration provides guidance and sets standards for the application of these principles in 14 major sectors or areas.

The final section of the Declaration is a “Call to Action” targeted at a number of institutions and sectors. Each of the institutions or sectors is required to carry out specific actions or play specific roles in promoting access to information and advancing the Declaration.  The sectors and institutions include UNESCO; the African Union, its organs and institutions; other African regional organizations and institutions; national Governments of AU member states; civil society; the Media; business sector companies and corporations as well as public and private donors.

The Declaration was adopted at the special session of the Africa Information and Media Summit (AIMS) on September 19, 2011. AIMS was a joint final session of several conferences and meetings, including the Pan African Conference on Access to Information; the Highway Africa Conference; the Digital Citizens Indaba (a meeting of bloggers); the meeting of The African Editors Forum (TAEF); the meeting of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF); the African Media Initiative (AMI), representing media owners; and the workshop of Journalism Educators drawn from UNESCO’s Centres of Excellence in Journalism Education.

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, moved the motion for the adoption of the Declaration and was seconded by Hon. Norris Tweah, Deputy Minister of Information for Liberia.  Participants thereafter voted to adopt the Declaration.

The Declaration was thereafter formally signed by Advocate Tlakula; the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Mr. Frank la Rue; the Director of  Information and Communication at the African Union Commission, Mrs. Habiba Mejri-Cheikh; the Deputy Minister of Information for Liberia; Hon. Norris Tweah; Mr. Cherrif Sy, President of the African Editors Forum (TAEF); Mr. Omar Farouk, President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), on behalf of FAJ and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ); Mrs. Alison Meston of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA); Mr. Toby Mendel, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIANET), the global network of freedom of information advocates; among others.

Institutional endorsements of the Declaration at national level are expected to bolster planned advocacy efforts at the regional and international levels aimed at getting the African Union and the United Nations to recognize the Declaration, apply the principles contained in it and proclaim as International Right to Information Day September 28, which is currently being celebrated annually by civil society organizations around the world as Right to Know Day.

The Declaration will subsequently by presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at its next session with a request that it formally endorses the Declaration and express its support for 28 September as the International Right to Information Day.

It will also be presented to the UNESCO General Conference, which will be requested to endorse it and make a recommendation to the UN General Assembly to endorse the Declaration and proclaim 28 September as International Right to Information Day.

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa has been requested to present the Declaration to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its next session in Banjul in November this year and request the Commission to approve a resolution authorizing her to use the Declaration to elaborate on and expand the freedom of information provisions in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa; recommend to the African Union Summit to adopt 28 September as the African Right to Information Day; and recommend to the African Union Summit to initiate a process of developing a legally binding instrument on the right of access to information based on APAI.

The African Union Commission, through the Directorate of Information and Communication, the Directorate of Political Affairs and its Legal Department, has also been requested to work with some African Governments to initiate a process of developing a legally binding instrument on access to information in Africa to be presented to the African Union submit for adoption.

The Declaration will also be formally presented to the Fourth African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF), a gathering of media owners and operators in Africa, scheduled to take place in Tunis in November this year, with a request that they endorse it.

To sign the Declaration, please send the full name of your organization and the full name and designation of the person authorized to endorse the Declaration on behalf of the organization to: mra@mediarightsagenda.net or karen@misa.org.  You can also sign the Declaration online at: http://www.pacaia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=79&Itemid=124
 

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