Accessing government information in Africa through the right to know: the role of the library

BAMGBOSE, Oludayo J. and ETIM, Imaobong A. (2015) Accessing government information in Africa through the right to know: the role of the library. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2015 - Cape Town, South Africa in Session 114 - Library and Research Services for Parliaments Law Libraries and Africa.

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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

Accessing government information in Africa through the right to know: the role of the library

From the provisions of African Charter, Resolution 167 XLVI of the 48th Ordinary Session of the African Union and most recently, Lyon Declaration of about 512 signatories, Africa has demonstrated its resolve to avail public information accessible to its citizens, being the bed rock of accountability, good governance and transparency in governance. Hitherto, public information were shrouded in official secrecy and impenetrable bureaucratic difficulties that denied access to public records. Besides the Model Law on Access to Information in Africa, one quarter of countries in Africa have enacted the law to guarantee easy access to public information not in the prohibition list. This study employed the use of content analysis of the African Model Law, various national laws as well as various judicial authorities on the provisions of the law on freedom of access to government information. The study revealed unprecedented opportunity of access to public information including legal information and legislative data. Also, despite a handful of judicial decisions validating the obligation on the part of the government to make disclosure in this regard, regrettably, the law has not been fully utilized by Africans. This study further underscored the role of the library in the post 2015 SDG era to transcend mere provision of information to its information seekers. Rather, the library’s mandates include, empowering its patrons to be able to access public information including legislative data even beyond the walls of the library. Libraries could therefore organise outreaches, exhibition and public awareness activities. Interpretation and repackaging of the law in easy to read expression will also be essential. Mobile Apps and other IT compliant models in line with the Lyon declaration can all be championed by librarians while the library itself as a corporate organisation can seek information request which would be useful for its clients.

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