Accountability in the Private Sector: African Ambition for Right to Information in India
The right to information (RTI) has come to recognition as a human right in international law. Conventionally, RTI is a means for a person to demand information from a public body. RTI has proven especially potent in the hands of journalists, who seek information on behalf of the electorate to hold public institutions accountable. But in the recent decades in which RTI has attained human rights stature, power in society has shifted in substantial measure from public to private sector. Journalistic inquiry is frustrated by the inapplicability of access laws to private bodies. In India, direct access to the private sector through RTI law was considered and rejected in the 1990s; however, the 2005 RTI Act allows a generous measure of access to non-governmental actors with public ties. A legal movement has been gaining steam in Africa to push past the public-private divide and recognize the importance of RTI to protect human rights regardless of the public or private character of the respondent. Different approaches are emerging with respect to journalist access in the African model. Amid trending privatization and burgeoning private power, the time might be coming for India to reconsider the road not taken.
Richard Peltz-Steele, Accountability in the Private Sector: African Ambition for Right to Information in India, 25:3 PANJAB U. RES. J. SOC. SCI. 203 (2017).