NEWS RELEASE: Protect citizens’ right to access information

For Immediate Release

27 September 2021

KampalaFor the second year running, the world will celebrate International Day for Universal Access to Information under the cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic. This day was proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in 2015, declaring 28 September of every year as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). It was first commemorated in 2016. The day also doubles as World News Day, a global campaign to display support for journalists and their audiences who, using facts and understanding, make the world a better place.

The official theme of the 2021 IDUAI is “The Right to Know – Building Back Better with Access to Information”. The theme seeks to highlight the role of access to information laws and their implementation to build back (within the pandemic context) strong institutions for the public good and sustainable development, as well as to strengthen the right to information and international cooperation in the field of implementing this human right. In Uganda, the right to access information is enshrined in Article 41 of the Constitution (1995), which provides that every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the state or any other organ of the state with some exceptions. It is backed up by the access to information law.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the centrality of access to information in the realisation of all other fundamental human rights and the role of the media as a key conduit for this information,” said Dr Peter G. Mwesige, the executive director of ACME. He added: “As we embrace the need to build back, it is crucial that citizens and the media have access to quality information to promote accountability, transparency, and empowerment of citizens to realise their basic rights.” 

While the government of Uganda instituted measures to promote the right of access to information such as establishment of the Ministry of ICT, rolling out a government communication strategy and the establishment of the Government Citizens Interaction Centre, access to vital information by citizens remains a big challenge due to non-compliance with the law by government entities. 

“We condemn the continued denial or delays to respond to citizens’ requests for information. Such delays cripple the usability of information, especially for journalists, but also mean that vital stories cannot be published by the media,” Dr Mwesige said. 

ACME urges ministers to comply with section 43 of the Access to Information Act, which requires every minister to submit an annual report to parliament on requests for records or for access to information made to public bodies under his or her ministry, indicating granted or rejected requests and reasons for rejection. “If these measures were followed, we would see more robust government accountability and efficient service delivery,” Dr Mwesige said.

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