On the occasion of the International Right to Information Day (28 September 2013) the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today called on the federal government of Somalia with federal parliament and the civil society in developing and passing comprehensive law on access to information which would lead to transparency and accountability in public institutions, enhanced media freedom, and increased citizen participation in governance issues.
Article 32 of the provisional constitutional of Somalia, which was adopted on 1 August 2012, guarantees the fundamental right of access to information as follows: (1) Every person has the right of access to information held by the state; (2) Every person has the right of access to any information that is held by another person which is required for the exercise or protection of any other just right; (3) Federal Parliament shall enact a law to ensure the right of access to information.
NUSOJ is championing for greater access to information in Somalia, a right guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights, and Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
“The commemoration of September 28 as the Right to Information Day is a worthy effort because of the centrality of access to information to the enjoyment of other fundamental human rights and to the promotion of transparency, accountability, good governance and informed citizen participation in any discourse in our nation,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
The development of access to information should be based on key instruments by the African Union (AU) model law on Access to Information to guarantee maximum disclosure. As the federal government repeatedly made commitment to highest standards of transparency and accountability, developing, passing and implementing access to information law as stipulated by the provisional constitution is crucial way to guarantee transparency and accountability.
NUSOJ urges the government to repeal laws that would undermine the full enjoyment of the right of access to information such as Penal Code and Counter-terrorism law. The union calls on the government to engage with civil society and other stakeholders to ensure widespread information demand and effective implementation of law, when passed, and policies to advance access to information by all persons.