Katiba Institute joined stakeholders to celebrate this year’s International Day for Universal Access to Information on 28 September 2023 in Kirinyaga County, Kenya. The event was convened by the Media Council of Kenya.
The International Day for Universal Access to Information is observed on 28 September to raise awareness about the critical role of access to information in promoting human rights, democracy, and development. Access to Information is an integral part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression, as acknowledged by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This year, the focus is on the importance of the online space for Access to Information.
The Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy, Eliud Owalo, the Chief Guest, said that access to information is a right all Kenyans should enjoy as it is enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.
“We as a government are profoundly committed to the principles that underpin basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in democratic societies. Access to information is one such right. It is not a luxury but one of the most critical cornerstones that serve as the fountainheads of modern democracy”, said Mr Owalo
Mr Owalo further noted the milestones achieved in enhancing access to information following the enactment of the Access to Information Act in 2016.
“This legislation not only laid the foundation for open governance within our borders but also stood as an exemplar to countries seeking to strengthen their frameworks for access to information”, he said.
Kevin Mabonga represented Katiba Institute in a panel discussion on “the right to access information as an enabler for Kenya’s digital economy.” The panel discussed the impact of technology and how the duty bearers and citizens can leverage technology to facilitate access to information.
Mabonga shared Katiba Institute’s work on access to information, including capacity building targeting government officials and the public and making access to information requests to different government institutions to enhance transparency. He observed that if technology tools are utilised effectively, citizens will easily access information, thus ensuring transparency. The move will also ensure citizen’s participation.
Speaking about implementing the law, Mabonga emphasised the importance of proactive disclosure of information by public entities to increase transparency and promote public confidence. He also challenged citizens to use access to information law to access relevant information.
“The law obliges public bodies to publish in the public interest information in its possession proactively and detail how an application for information is to be made and processed. It also sets out the parameters for non-disclosure of information.”