Right to know one step closer in Malawi

By Richard Lee | February 03rd, 2014

Malawians are a big step closer to being able to exercise their right to know – after the Cabinet finally adopted an Access to Information (ATI) policy. This removes the last major hurdle to the enactment of a much-needed – and much delayed – ATI law.

Parliament still needs to pass a bill but the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter, which has been spearheading the campaign for ATI legislation, believes that MPs will vote it through once it is tabled in the House.

Despite a Constitutional provision giving Malawians the right to access information held by the government, no ATI legislation has ever been passed to compel those in authority to release this information – a fact that has undoubtedly helped to foster incompetence, corruption and cover-ups over the years.

For over a decade, activists have been pushing for ATI legislation but the campaign stalled in 2009 when the government indicated that there was need for an ATI policy before any Bill could proceed to Parliament for debate.

MISA Malawi and various other civil society organisations have been lobbying the government since then to adopt a policy, which is why MISA Malawi has welcomed the decision by President Joyce Banda’s government so warmly.

Commenting on the development, MISA Malawi Chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, said the adoption of the policy was a milestone but could not have been possible without support from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Tilitonse.

“This is a very commendable development. We applaud government for adopting the Policy and we now look forward to enactment of the ATI Bill but we could not have managed to get this far without the support that we received from OSISA and Tilitonse,” said Kasunda.

“We would like to thank these partners for their financial support and we hope they will continue to support us to ensure that our MPs support the ATI Bill when it is tabled in parliament,” he added.

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