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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title IV - Making Parliamentary Information Easily Accessible

Sec. 29. Guaranteeing Access by the Media

Parliament shall ensure that the media and independent observers are given full access to parliamentary proceedings; the criteria and process for providing media access shall be clearly defined and publicly available.

The media’s right to access parliamentary proceedings is referenced in all international benchmarks for democratic parliaments. The CPA, for instance, asserts that “The Legislature should ensure that the media are given appropriate access to the proceedings of the Legislature without compromising the proper functioning of the Legislature and its rules of procedure.”[1] The SADC-PF benchmarks further specify that “Accredited journalists shall be allowed to cover parliamentary proceedings regardless of the media’s political views.”[2]  Most standards frameworks go further than just requiring access for the media, but also require parliament to actively promote a healthy relationship between parliament and the media. The CPA Benchmarks for Democratic Parliaments – in language COPA and SADC-PF[3] – notes that parliaments should have a “non-partisan media relations facility.”[4] Implementing this benchmark, the Kenyan National Assembly launched in 2009 a media center and Internet facility to enable journalists to file stories.[5]

According to the World Bank Institute, “Many Parliaments have special committees, such as Nigeria’s Media and Public Affairs Committee, to promote good relations with the media. In India, Parliament conducts a 10-day special media interaction each year, where special efforts are made to promote two-way flows of information and better understanding between Parliament and the media.”[6] The IPU cites several other instances of countries allowing full access to parliamentary proceedings by the media including Cyprus, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, and Australia.[7] The Parliament of Scotland has specific regulations permitting open media access which are clearly outlined and easily accessible on their website.[8]

[1] CPA, Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures, §9.1.3.

[2] SADC PF, Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa, §6.4.5.

[3] COPA, The Contributions of Parliaments to Democracy: Benchmarks for the Parliaments of the Americas, §; SADC-PF, Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa, §2.1.3.

[4] CPA, Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures, §9.1.3.

[5] Parliamentary Centre, African Parliamentary Index, June 2011, p. 91.

[6] Toby Mendel, Parliament and Access to Information: Working for Transparent Governance, CPA-WBI, p. 33.

[7] IPU, Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Good Practice, p. 45.

[8] Website of the Scottish Parliament, Media Access: terms and conditions. Accessed 6/12/2012.