Access to information is an essential part of democracy. Public access to government-held information allows individuals to better understand the role of government and the decisions being made on their behalf.
Access to information prevents the upsurge of corruption which affects countries. Instead of citizens benefitting from the system, resources, which are meant for the people, are diverted into the pockets of politicians, middlemen and illicit contractors. The consequences of corruption globally include unequal access to public services and justice, reduced investor confidence, continued poverty and violence, and the overthrow of governments. When the public is aware of such cases, governments can be held accountable for their policies, and citizens can more effectively choose their representatives.
This publication was developed under the Human Rights and Democracy program, with the support of the Embassy of Sweden in Kenya through DIAKONIA.
The handbook has been developed by Katiba and its partners and aims at helping citizens, public entities and relevant private entities to understand the right to information through clear, simple and straightforward language. This handbook points out what the right to information is, how to access information and the offences for breach of right.
Access to information is necessary for the realization of the basic rights to freedom of opinion and expression. These are guaranteed in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, subsequent human rights declarations, and many national constitutions. Article 35 of the Kenyan Constitution guarantees that everyone has a right to access of information held by the State and information held by another person and required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom.
Other than the Right to Information Act seeking to uphold on Article 35 of the Constitution, it also seeks to protect people who reveal information to the authorities in order to see that the law is enforced. The government and even private entities can be held liable for any misconduct on their part.
Lack of information impedes citizens’ ability to assess the decisions of their leaders, and even to make informed choices about the individuals they elect to serve as their representatives. It also reduces progress since the public will not be able to know of any opportunities they can benefit from the government. Such benefits include access to government tenders, access to information about certain government entities and also job opportunities among others.
Access to information empowers not just the media, but citizens as well, allowing them to challenge government policy and denounce official abuse.