The Freedom of Information refers to the citizens’ right to official information held by the government, or private bodies that carry out public functions or when information concerns a citizen right. The right to information is an important human right necessary for the enjoyment of all other rights. The right to know among other things is integral to a meaningful democracy, it supports better public policy, and it facilitates participatory development, promotes accountability of development projects and promotes environmental rights and prevents conflicts including conflicts over natural resources.
Since 2005, ILEG has been at the forefront of the campaign for a FOI Law in Kenya. A Civil Society Organizations’ coalition called the Freedom of Information Network (FOINET) was formed to lead the campaign. FOINET has held workshops and public debates to marshal support and from civil society and other stakeholders, organized the €œRight to Know Day€ on 28th September for the last three years which generates publicity on the need for freedom of information through media focus while at the same time informing the public of this important right and engaged Members of Parliament to lobby for their support.
All this effort has borne fruit. On 7th February 2007, the government through the Ministry of Information invited stakeholders and the general public to a forum to make suggestions and input towards the final draft of the FOIpolicy. Another public forum was held on 27th May 2007 to review the final draft of the FOIbill. The documents were thereafter presented to government for approval but the process of seemed to have stalled thereafter.
However, the passage of the new Constitution in August 2010 solidified the gains of the FOI process. The right of access to information is now entrenched in the constitution; Article 35 of this Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to access:
- information held by the State; and
- Information held by another person and required for the exerciseor protection of any right or fundamental freedom.
While this is a positive development, more work will still need to be done to ensure that existing legislation policies and practices are reviewed to ensure their compliance with the Constitution.
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