Friday 18 June 2021
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Namibia condemned for secrecy culture

“ Whatever you do, you need information and when information is available, decision making becomes easier” stressed Edetaen Ojo, founding member of the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI) working group. Ojo was speaking during a business breakfast co-hosted by ACTION Coalition Namibia and FesMedia in Windhoek last week.
Ojo also shared that, “in 2009, only five countries had access to information which is less than 10% of African States. Presently 22 countries now have access to information related laws. It is still less than 50% of the continent but it is progress. We are working to get ECOWAS to adopt a similar access to information framework for the entire region and if it successful, we can transfer lessons to the other regional bodies on the continent”.
Hence the APAI working group was formed to initiate a campaign to promote Access to Information in Africa in 2011. To date the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has endorsed and adopted the APAI declaration.  Whilst lobby efforts for UNESCO to recommend APAI and endorse an international “Right to Know” day celebrating access to information, to the United Nations Assembly is ongoing.
Ojo further expressed his disappointment that Namibia is yet to adopt an access to information legal framework. “I am personally disappointed that Namibia does not have any access to information law. This is the birth place of the Windhoek declaration and African Charter for Broadcasting which is recognised as a global framework for broadcasting. Windhoek gave the world, “World Press Freedom Day” and we need to revise this embarrassment. Namibia should not let us down because you are regarded as a role model in press freedom and this should extend to access to information” appealed Ojo.
Frederico Links from the ACTION Coalition remains hopeful, saying all is not lost in Namibia because a draft framework on access to information is currently under revision by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT).
Links emphasised that whilst access to information is indeed a human right; communicating this right to the public remains a challenge. “How do you make the right to information real for everyone ranging from the policy maker to the street vendor”? he questioned.
Tjiucui Kaambo, the Director: Print Media Affairs at MICT also affirmed that Namibia is indeed working on an ATI framework which is currently under review due to security issues that needed to be addressed by it is anticipated to be tabled soon.
Commenting during the discussions was Political analyst, Professor Andre Du Pisani who highlighted the need to clarify trade offs between security concerns and access to information. He thus presented an example of security related tensions when it comes to access to information in the banking sector.
“The banking sector is obliged to legally comply with client confidentiality and this often involves covering up national security concerns such as money laundering. Nobody really knows the extend of money laundering in Namibia because this information is not publicly available but the banks and governance bureaucracy are aware.
These are difficult question in policy making and we need to find ways to answer them because; when is it okay to protect your client information even if it is a concern for national security”? probed Du Pisani. He further stressed that the core question regarding contestations on access to information and national security concerns is fundamentally on which type of information can be shared and which should be withheld.
The APAI working group consists of a core group of organisations with expertise in issues relating to Freedom and Access to Information such as the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Article 19 (East and West Africa), Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Highway Africa (HA), The African Editors Forum (TAEF) and the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA).

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