Publicity and freedom of information play an important role in the effective promotion and protection of human rights. This is for a number of reasons. Individuals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs)and inter-governmental organisations need reliable information to put pressure on governments. Publicity is also important as it increases the visibility of an organisation. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) is a good example of an institution where a lack of visibility has been to the detriment of the important
work that the Commission is undertaking under difficult circumstances. As has often been pointed out, the African Commission has during its almost 20 years of existence faced serious constraints with regard to
human and financial resources. Over the last few years, the Commission has also come under increased pressure from the political bodies of the African Union (AU). This is ironical, since the AU Constitutive Act makes the promotion and protection of human rights ‘in accordance with the
African Charter’ one of the objectives of the new continental body. One of the functions of the African Commission is to ‘disseminate information’. The Commission achieves this through promotional visits, participation in seminars and conferences and publishing reports on its work. It is the last of these activities that is the focus of this article. Most information that concerns the work of the African Commission is in the archives of the Commission in Banjul, and therefore not easily accessible. This article considers the different reasons why many reports and other documents of the Commission are not publicly available.