Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) are in a process of drafting proposed amendments to the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA).
This is to ensure PAIA effectively realises the right of access to information in the digital era in South Africa.
Speaking at a discussion that marked International Day for Universal Access to Information on September 28, MMA director William Bird said PAIA was a progressive piece of legislation when it was enacted 20 years ago but is now “in need of urgent reform”.
“In the current digital era, the exercise of the right of access to information must be respected, protected and promoted both on and offline,” he said.
A joint MMA and SANEF statement added that the right to access to information fostered both online and offline protects transparency and accountability in South Africa.
“It is therefore crucial that all persons in South Africa have meaningful access to the internet and online information, and that disclosures of information are made available through different platforms that render such information readily accessible to the public,” it said.
Bird said they are working to make sure the PAIA exists in a regional framework.
“We've drawn extensively on these really magnificent documents, particularly the African Commission on Human People's Rights, through the Declaration of Principles on
Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa” he said.
The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa recognises that freedom of expression is important stating: “The respect, protection and fulfilment of these rights is crucial and indispensable for the free development of the human person, the creation and nurturing of democratic societies and for enabling the exercise of other rights.”
MMA and SANEF are working with a team of other like-minded organisations and are supported by access to information activists and legal experts. The proposed amendments address problems encountered by members of the Access To Information Network, journalists and others in civil society in using PAIA.
The proposed amendments have been informed by the five key principles of primacy, maximum disclosure, proactive disclosure, international commitments, and online protections.
“The next step is to approach a wider group of PAIA users and experts to make sure that their concerns are captured in the draft amendments. The final step will be to hand the draft over to the Human Rights Commission, the Information Regulator and the Department of Justice for consideration and processing by the executive and parliament,” the joint statement said.
Read more about the proposed PAIA amendments here.