RE-VISITING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL: NEED FOR ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN NIGERIA
This paper comes in the wake of the 2010 World Press Freedom Day marked by the world including Nigeria on 3 May, 2010. One aspect of press freedom that is of interest to me having regard to its importance in building the Nigerian nation is the need for freedom of information (FOI) or access to information held by public officials. It is now a cliché to say that there is a culture or veil of secrecy among public office holders in Nigeria. This will be buttressed with an ongoing brouhaha in the Nigerian polity. In November 23, 2009 President Yar’Adua collapsed and was rushed to a Jeddah hospital in Saudi Arabia, and for the first time his medical condition of acute percarditis was officially disclosed to Nigerians. But since then, it has been a hide-and-seek game between Nigerians and the “cabal” as to his true state of health, and possibly whereabouts. This has resulted to the thrive of rumour mongering as even the Acting President recently declared in a CNN interview that he has not seen Mr. President. Thank God for the ever vibrant civil society and “ingenuity” of the National Assembly, Nigeria escaped another major set back in its democratisation process. Bottom line is that the last of Mr. President’s absentee state is yet to be heard or seen and it is partly attributable to the absence of an FOI legal regime in Nigeria that allows Nigerians to be treated with so much contempt and disregard by those in public offices with a flagrant infringement of their right of access to information. No doubt, there are adverse implications because information cannot be suppressed without dire consequences for social cohesion and stability.
Ironically, the Freedom of Information Bill that will provide a remedy has been missing in action in the National Assembly. It is, therefore, intended in this paper to examine the right to FOI in order to highlight its importance and need to Nigeria’s growth and development.
RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
In its very first session in 1946, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 59(I) stating that: “Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and ... the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.” The right to freedom of information is a component of the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the basic laws and constitutions of virtually all of today’s States. In Nigeria, the right to freedom of expression is enshrined under Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 to the effect that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and “to receive” and impart ideas and information without interference. However, under Section 45 of CFRN 1999, this right may be limited or derogated from by any law that is “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society” in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.
In international jurisprudence, the international community has in various human rights treaties upheld and guaranteed the right to FOI together with its protection under customary international law. Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966 contain similar statements of the right to freedom of expression, though the latter is very elaborate in its provisions. Article 19(2) of the ICCPR specifically stipulates that: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; ‘this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart’ information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. (Italics supplied for...
The Freedom of Information has been the foremost battle for Journalists in their struggle to inform the public about the activities and policies of government.
The Nigeria’s Freedom of information Act was a long awaited bill which was finally signed into Law in 2011, thus putting an end to the era of secrecy in the act of governance in Nigeria.
The basic aims of this study therefore are
1) To carry out an in depth review of Freedom of Information Act 2011,
(2) Critically examines its implications for ethical Journalism practice in Nigeria. The method used in carrying out this study includes assessing the content of freedom of information Act which form the Secondary source of data and the findings therein regulating the code of ethics in Journalism, thus recommending that strict adherence to the provision of the FO1 Act would consequently reduces the unethical practices that journalist in Nigeria often enmeshed in while striving to gather informations from government and private/public organizations.
Over the years, there has been vehement struggle for Press Freedom all over the developed and developing nations of the world. There is hardly any country in the world that this struggle has not yield positive result, but in most developing nations...
...balance that is beneficial to it and to its people. This could be considered as a balanced flow of information into, out of, and across the country. The press, and for the matter, the public, has a constitutional right to demand the examination of public records as part of freedom of information (Paterson, 2005). It is a public right where the parties concerned are the citizens and they can ask for information as long as it is of public interest. This is the freedom of information. It simply means the access by individuals as a presumptive right to information held by public authorities (Black’s Law Dictionary, 1990).
The object of the Freedom of Information Act is to extend as far as possible the right of access of the Australian community to information in the possession of the government. There are two ways by which this is done. First is to require the annual publication of certain information by each government department or agency and the second is by the creation of an enforceable right of access to specific information held by government departments or agencies (Wallace & Pagone, 1990).
This right, however, does not mean that everyday citizens can just go to public offices and demand right away what they want to know. As is in many other countries, the...
...Republic of the Philippines
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Quezon City, Metro Manila
Second Regular Session
House Bill No. __________
AN ACT TO STRENGTHEN THE RIGHT OF CITIZENS
TO INFORMATION HELD BY THE GOVERNMENT.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in
SECTION. 1. Short Title. – This Act shall be known as the “Freedom of Information
Act of 2012.”
SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy. – The State recognizes the right of the people to
information on matters of public concern, and adopts and implements a policy of full
public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, subject to the procedures
and limitations provided by this Act. This right is indispensable to the exercise of the
right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all
levels of social, political and economic decision-making.
SECTION. 3. Definition of Terms. – As used in this Act:
(a) “Information” shall mean any record, document, paper, report, letters, contract,
minutes and transcripts of official meetings, maps, books, photographs, data, research
material, film, sound and video recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data,
computer stored data, or any other like or similar data or...
...has yet to recover from the furor brought about by the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, and now comes another bill that will excite his thoughts once more.
The proposed Freedom of Information or FOI Bill has been getting a piece of the news recently, and debates won’t end, not until the bill is passed by the lawmakers down in the Lower Chamber.
The Right to Facts
Article III Section VII of the 1987 Constitution reads:
“The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to public records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to limitations as may be provided by law.”
This is the essence of the FOI Bill, which will also allow the citizenry to access government records by various means: print, visual, and sound.
But ask any reporter, member of the press, individual, or member of advocacy groups investigating government transactions, or just seeking information on public records of government institutions, and he’ll tell you that at one time or another he had had a rough time securing documents, even coming out empty-handed on some, if not frequent occasions.
To this day, the...
...A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT IN NIGERIA
By Ayodele Afolayan
Freedom of information, specifically access to information held by public authorities is a fundamental element of the right to freedom of expression and vital to the proper functioning of a democracy. It is an act that makes provision for the disclosure of information held by public authorities or by persons providing services for them (Robert, 2000). This means that the act enables one sees a wide range of public information because it gives the right to ask any public body for all the information they have on any subject. According to the Media Rights Agenda (2011)
This Act makes public records and information more freely available, provide for public access to public records and information, protect public records and information to the extent consistent with the public interest and the protection of personal privacy, protect serving public officers from adverse consequences for disclosing certain kinds of official information without authorization and establish procedures for the achievement of those purposes and; for related matters.
In a country where Freedom of Information Act is in operation, anyone can make a request for...
...depends on how well it fulfils these elements, one of which is Freedom of information. A government ought to be accountable to its people.
Freedom of information has two sides namely, the freedom to convey information, and the freedom to accessinformation. As such, it consists of press freedom and freedom to access anyinformation by the general public. According to Hughes “the concept of freedom refers to a certain type of political empowerment. It refers specifically to equal empowerment. In other words, a free society is one with an equal distribution of legal rights and in which each and every person has as much legal rights as possible ” (Hughes., 2007). And the Oxford dictionary goes on to say define information as “Knowledge communicated concerning some particular fact, subject or event; that of which one is apprised or told; intelligence, news”. Freedom of information simply put, gives you the right to ask any public body for all the information they have on any subject you choose ("Freedom of information," 2001).
Having listened to so much talk about “freedom of information” it is indeed pertinent to carefully and deliberately look into the likely objects of...
...Background of the Study
The People’s Freedom of Information Act of 2013 was defined as an important piece of legislation to promote transparency in the government's administrative process. With this act, Filipino citizens are empowered to make a formal request to get information which is held by the government, barring certain sensitive and important data related to the nation's security. In some countries, this law also states that the government is duty-bound to publish information in the spirit of openness and transparency. Every person who is a Filipino citizen has a right to and shall, on request, be given access to any record under the control of a government agency. Government agencies shall make available to the public for scrutiny, copying and reproduction in the manner provided by this Act, all information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data used as a basis for policy development. Under this act the State will recognizes the right of the people to information on matters of public concern, and adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, subject to the procedures and limitations .This right is indispensable to the exercise of the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of...
...PUBLIC FREEDOM OF INFORMATION OF INDONESIA
By: Adistra Kusuma Waligalit, Faculty of Law of Gadjah Mada University
This study identified several Legal defects regarding the Act on Public Freedom of Information of Indonesia. These legal defects will be explained along with the reccomendations of remedy as below.
After experiencing a difficult time in New Order era (1966-1998), when the civil rights to freely obtaininformation had been abused by the government at that time, a glimmer of hope emerged when the government enact a new Act regarding Public Freedom of Information in 2008 (Act number 14). But just as too good to be true, the hope was only short lived. It seemed that the government is still reluctant to handle this sensitive topic. The lengthy process and laggy session in the making of this Act only reflects that the idea was hardly approved by many officials, prompting the act to be inaugurated in 2010 eventhough it had been enacted in 2008. As the result, the implication of this Act does not satisfy the expectation.
I recognise two (2) fundamental legal defects in this Act:
1. The Act does not fulfill Maximum access limited exemption principle.
2. Unclear definition of public enitity.
PRESENTATION OF THEORY/EVIDENCE OR CONTENT ANALYSIS
FIRST: The Act does not fulfill Maximum access limited exemption principle...