Since the start of South Africa’s democracy in 1994, human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, have been fully embraced and promoted in the country.
These rights are guaranteed in the South African Constitution and are particularly pertinent and valuable given the history of oppression in South Africa, prior to 1994. The Constitution states in Section 32 (1) “everyone has the right of access to records and information held by the state and by another person, that is required for the protection of any rights”.
Following this, two pieces of legislation were passed, which are “The Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2 of 2000” (PAIA) and “The Protection of Personal Information Act, of 2013” (POPIA). While the first Act makes provision for citizens to access information, which may assist them in promoting their rights, the second Act gives the right to privacy, thereby balancing it against other rights, such as the public interest and access to information.
Indeed, many advances have been made on PAIA, whereby each state department as well as local government and private companies, must provide all of their information on their websites and provide access to information from members of the public. South Africa also now has an Information Regulator whose task it is to monitor and enforce compliance by public and private bodies within the PAIA 2000 Act and the POPIA 2013 Acts.
While these rights have played a huge role in allowing citizens and journalists’ access to critical information required in the promotion of human rights, there are nevertheless problematic areas, which need attention.
In this report titled, “The State of Access of Information in South Africa” the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) assesses the implementation of the law in the country.