Access to information (ATI) held by bodies is one of the most important information rights in the information society. Everyone has experienced the feelings of rejection, isolation, and frustration that arise when they did not know something that others did know. Unless there are good reasons, people should have access to information – there should be freedom of information. Public bodies should give the public all information that can enable citizens to make decisions and form opinions. Access to information enables us to:
- keep a check on public bodies, and
- enforce or protect our rights against public and private bodies.
Often, without information, our freedom or rights are severely curtailed.
Information is power
We provide various legal services regards access to information. We are experts in this field and have much experience with it over many years. Freedom of information (FOI) is a synonym for access to information and some countries refer to access to information as freedom of information (FOI).
Access to information laws
There are various access laws in different parts of the world. They have different names, but they amount to the same thing. Some are called the Freedom of Information Act or the right to information act. The big difference between South Africa and other countries is that South Africa promotes access to information held by both public and private bodies, whilst the rest of the world only promotes access to information held by public bodies.
- South Africa has the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
- Canada has the Access to Information Act (AIA).
- India has the Right to Information Act (RTIA).
- Kenya deals with it in their Constitution.
Who must comply with access to information laws?
In most countries, public bodies (like governments and state-owned companies) must comply. Some countries are thinking of extending the application to other entities – like private bodies that perform public functions. In South Africa, private bodies (like companies and trusts) must also comply.
How we help the holders of information
- Increase your awareness on access to information (ATI) by attending our workshop.
- Avoid being taken to court by asking us to advise you on whether you should allow or deny access to information when a requester requests access.
- Tell people how you provide access to information by asking us to draft an Access to Information Manual or PAIA Manual (South Africa only). Alternatively, ask us to review your existing PAIA Manual to ensure it complies with the latest law, especially POPI.
- Quickly deal with access to information requests by asking us to provide you with PAIA request forms or PAIA templates.
- Appoint your Information Officer properly, including a job specification and letter of appointment, by asking us to assist.
- Check that you comply with access to information laws by asking us to audit your compliance with access to information laws.
Benefits of giving access to information
- Prevent misconduct or criminal behaviour by making it more likely that people will get caught by increasing transparency. People are less likely to misbehave if they are more likely to get caught.
- Demonstrate how well you have been performing and the improvements you’ve made by proactively publishing information.
- Create a culture of openness, foster good relationships and support collaborative working by making information available.
- Build trust and confidence (which is essential for effective partnerships) by being open with information. People trust organisations that share information about their activities.
Who can request access to information?
How we help requesters get access to information (ATI)
- Get access to records held by an organisation by getting our advice and assistance, or attending our workshop.
- Ask us to complete a request form on your behalf.
- If you have been refused access, we can appeal on your behalf or take legal action.