Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Access to information – it’s your right!

TOP del.icio.us

According to preliminary research findings carried out in 2011by the African Network of Constitutional Lawyers (ANCL) some Zimbabweans showed ignorance on the right of access to information.  This ignorance isn’t helped by the Access to Information and Protection of Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which has no clear request and appeals procedures. This legislation has been blamed for focusing on media regulation rather than the promotion of access to information. Access to information should not be a preserve of the ministry of information and publicity and the media, as what was noted in the survey. Also access to information is not only about democracy and the media but also about the survival of the people. For example, information on health issues such as the current typhoid outbreak, which the country is experiencing at the moment, has not been made available to the public making it difficulty to hold the government accountable.

Today ANCL presented its findings at a meeting held in Harare highlighting that some of the objectives of the survey were to identify the existing legal framework for access to information in Zimbabwe, also assessing government responsiveness to access to information and recommendations for advancing the agenda of access to information.
Though these findings may be subject to debate, with some people arguing that politicization of public institutions has resulted in many people failing to access information of public interest in nature, and this information has not been made available due to bureaucracy and the culture of secrecy in government departments. In neighboring South Africa the government has the South Africa Government Services, which makes information of public interest available as stipulated under its Promotion of Access to Information Act. The department was created so that citizens can exercise their constitutional right to access any information held by the state.

Under AIPPA access to information from government institutions by members of the public has not been easy due to the arbitrary classification of state held information which some people have recommended that government should come up with a manual on what kind of information can be accessed from each department. The current constitution reform process presents opportunities for promoting access to information through the enhancement of state-citizen engagement.

Members of civil society and journalists in Zimbabwe have not been spared by AIPPA as many have been arrested for participating in civic education, and publishing stories that contain public interest information. The continued infringement on the right to access to information has resulted in many Zimbabweans losing interest in information coming from state run newspapers and broadcasters due to politicization of the content, preferring foreign and independent newspapers, TV and radio stations.

Comments are closed.