ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Kenyan government to speedily pass an Access to Information law, as recommended by African Union Special Rapporteur on Right to Information and Freedom of Expression, Pansy Tlakula during her visit to the country. The importance of freedom of information legislation cannot be overstated: without it Kenya lacks an implementation framework to ensure transparency and accountability.
“It is now incumbent on government and civil society to formulate strategies that are focused on harmonising the existing Access to Information bills, in order to ensure that what is presented for debate and passage is strong Access to Information legislation which contains provisions in accordance with international standards,” commented Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19’s Eastern Africa Director.
The Access to Information Bill 2015 underwent first reading in Parliament on 19 August 2015, as a private members bill, but the Ministry of Information, Communication and Telecommunication has also indicated its intention to table its own Draft Access to Information and Data Protection Bills.
“Access to Information is a fundamental requirement for a democratic, free and open society. It is one of the rights that underpin the values of good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability and therefore enables the electorate to objectively evaluate the performance of the government, and thus exercise their democratic rights from an informed view,” noted Commissioner Tlakula.
There have been attempts by the Kenyan government in the recent past to ensure that the right to information (RTI) is being actualised, with the establishment of platforms such as Kenya Open Data, membership to the Open Governance Partnership, and the creation of ICT infrastructure around the country. However, Kenya still lacks the legal framework which would institutionalise and provide enforcement on the right to information.
Lack of a RTI framework in Kenya has allowed civil servants to use retrogressive legislation and bureaucratic procedures to conceal information, and to foster a culture of secrecy. Provisions barring release of government information, such as those contained in the Official Secrets Act, Preservation of Public Security Act, and the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act should also be repealed since they are not reflective of the international and regional freedom of expression and media freedoms standards which Kenya has committed to uphold.
Commissioner Tlakula visited Kenya from 24-28 August 2015 to promote the passage of Access to Information legislation. She held meetings with Cabinet Secretary for Information, the Attorney General the Deputy Chief Justice, representatives from the Senate, the Judicial Training Institute and Constitutional Commissions.
For more information please contact: Henry Maina, Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa Email:[email protected] or call +254 727 862230