Paper Wars reflects upon the South African History Archive's work testing the parameters of South Africa's Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), and highlights the complexity of accessing information after 1994. It provides insight into the difficulties information activists and requesters have encountered as they have attempted to put South Africa's constitutional right of access to information into practice. The book examines access to records related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, gays in the apartheid military, the dismantling of the apartheid government's nuclear weapons program, and nuclear energy.
Paper Wars shows that despite the progressive nature of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, those requesting information often face significant obstacles when attempting to access records. This is in direct contrast to the promise of transparency and openness of our democratic government. “Access to information is a responsibility of government,” says Piers Pigou, contributor to Paper Wars and former director of the SAHA. “The Department of Justice needs to inculcate a culture of openness and transformation.”
Paper Wars provides four reasons for why government makes it so difficult to access information: resilient cultures of secrecy; the lack of resources to deal with requests for records; cultures of fear associated with making these records public; and poor recording-keeping in government.
The book offers a persuasive account of the process of accessing information, identifying trends across departments and offering lessons to overcome some of the challenges.
- Human Rights,
- Freedom of Information,
- Truth and Reconciliation,
- Transitional Justice,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kate_allan/2/