ACTION members Frederico Links, Gwen Lister and Zoe Titus make a case for access to information ahead of the commemoration of International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on September 28, 2017.

Access to Information For All


Some may think it’s just about the media. But the right to know, also a law to facilitate such access, (ATI) is important for everyone, including journalists. Why is this so? Because information is both power and knowledge, and a people who are informed are also enabled to make better decisions about their lives and to be more engaged citizens in a democracy.

Governments the world over have committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for global development and progress. But without an environment that is both conducive to and promotes access to information, these goals are simply not attainable.

Media, all media, must be free and open to maximize the benefits of ATI. Journalists can, should and do play a significant role as purveyors of credible and verifiable information  – both on and offline – adhering to high standards of professionalism. They can also help to stimulate the public appetite, especially on social media, for a high standard of news and information, and to repudiate that which is lies and disinformation.

To achieve openness, transparency and the acquisition of knowledge through access, governments must withstand the tendencies to give with one hand and take with another. The right to know is severely compromised and crippled by those regimes which deny press freedom and restrict or switch off the internet.

If we can conquer the forces that seek to stifle free expression and access, and empower people to want to seek out quality information and knowledge, it’s half the battle won in the quest for sustainable development.

ATI as an Anti-Corruption Tool


Since taking over in March 2015, the Geingob administration has mightily promoted itself as the bringer of much greater transparency and efficiency to state governance systems and processes. From the get-go this administration has promised to be more open and responsive. And it went as far as promising to deliver a formal access to information framework.

However, on this score, as on many others, what has been preached for over two years now has far outstripped what is actually being practiced.

Against this backdrop we should not forget that Namibia is actually a signatory to significant global instruments which do require of us to install a quite substantive access to information legal framework. While the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, under Article 19, and the Sustainable Development Goals, under SDG 16, should be held up as clearly calling for the implementation of such ATI frameworks, it is to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (Uncac) that Namibians should look to now to strengthen calls for such measures at national level. For it is under Uncac that Namibia is currently being assessed, between 2016 and 2020, and here too, under Article 13, the call is once again made for “effective access to information”, while at various points in the convention the case for ATI is emphasized.

This is because maximum openness has long been considered an effective practice against all forms of corruption. And this is also what the President’s signature Harambee Prosperity Plan promotes. So, meaningful ATI is really unavoidable now.

Action on ATI Implementation


At a recent press conference Minister Tweya confirmed that the long-awaited Access to Information Bill is currently with the Cabinet Committee on Legislation (CCL) en route to cabinet and finally parliament. Kudos to the Minister for getting the process going and ticking it off his performance agreement. But making laws is more serious than that and history has shown that Namibia has faced serious challenges with implementing the laws on its statute books.

The Ministry made a commendable effort to include civil society in the consultation process, resulting in a draft commensurate with international standards and best practice. The final product however is yet to be seen and will be a reflection of government’s true commitment to implementing a law that promotes transparency and accountability.

An immediate way of signaling government’s commitment to implementing this important developmental law is by developing and publishing a detailed plan of action identifying key implementation tasks, the independent agency responsible for actioning them and strict timelines for completion. Experience has shown that it is most efficient for a ‘whole-of-government’ action plan to be developed by the agency given overall responsibility for implementation. This ensures that implementation activities are consistent across the government. It will also ensure that the bureaucracy cannot pass the buck on their responsibilities for execution because the lead agency will be responsible for monitoring all government implementation activities.

Notably, Minister Tweya’s most recent performance agreement features the development of a cybercrime strategy to accompany the E-Transactions and Cybercrime Bill currently in development. Surely the same commitment should be applied to the access to information bill.

* The contributors are all members of the Action Namibia Coalition.