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African Human Rights Law Journal

versão On-line ISSN 1996-2096
versão impressa ISSN 1609-073X

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SALAU, Aaron Olaniyi. The right of access to information and national security in the African regional human rights system. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2017, vol.17, n.2, pp.367-389. ISSN 1996-2096.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/1996-2096/2017/v17n2a2.

October 2016 marked the 35th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights - the first two decades of which the meaning, normative content and scope of the right of access to information guaranteed by article 9 of the Charter were largely unexplored. However, the implementation bodies of the African Charter subsequently have whittled down challenges posed by the narrow formulation of article 9, its claw-back clause and the undemocratic practices of African regimes in relying on vague and widely-drafted laws to deny access to state-held information on grounds of state security. This article examines the methodologies adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights to supplement and entrench a substantive right of access to information compatible with international standards in article 9. The article finds that an overhauled article 9 dictates that the right of access to information held by public and private bodies is a fundamental right, indispensable to the health of a democracy and a means of protecting other rights, especially socio-economic rights. The right may in recognised instances be restricted, including on grounds of national security, only as clearly provided by law to serve a legitimate purpose and as necessary in a democratic society. The article proposes that state parties to the African Charter engage with the logic and reasoning of its implementation bodies to adopt measures and align their constitutional frameworks with the fundamental principles of access to information.

Palavras-chave : right of access to information; national security; democratic society; limitation of rights; public interest; article 9 African Charter; African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

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