On International Right to Know Day yesterday, amaBhungane together with 11 civil society partners released a report on the state of access to information in South Africa. The report, compiled by the Access to Information Network, is published annually and tracks civil society experiences of using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
A total of 408 PAIA applications by network members were analysed for the report, the largest number yet.
The 2017 report again reveals dismally low levels of statutory compliance. One in two requests made to government departments and state-owned entities were simply ignored. The figures for private sector requests were not much better, with 40% ignored.
Access was granted in approximately 33% and 31% of requests for public and private institutions respectively. This compares unfavourably with the 2016 figure, where 46% of requests to public institutions were granted.
Karabo Rajuili, Advocacy Coordinator at amaBhungane said: “Quick and easy access to information is vital for investigative reporting, and the media in general. AmaBhungane has vigorously exercised and defended the right to information as envisaged under PAIA”.
She said, “an example of this is the punitive cost order made by the High Court against the department of defence, following its four year delay in granting amaBhungane access to information on private landings at the Waterkloof, following the scandal of the Gupta wedding private landing in 2013.”
A case study of amaBhungane’s litigation against the department of defence is featured in the report.
The network’s report makes important recommendations, including increasing proactive disclosures of information, and creating ways for “emergency” access to records in time-sensitive matters.
AmaBhungane is a member of the network, and engages in this work through its advocacy mandate, which is to help secure the information rights investigative journalists need to do their work.
The report and a press statement from the network are available here.