Malawi ‘Access to Information Bill’ not for journalists- Official

Director of Information in the Ministry of Information, Isaac Cheke Ziba on Friday said the Access to information Bill which is yet to become a law is not a tool only for journalists but the whole public.

Ziba who officially opened the final national consultative meeting for the drafting and development of the Bill in Lilongwe said when enacted, the Bill shall give powers to every Malawian to access the information that is of national importance.

“I want to make it clear to the general public that this bill is not meant for journalists as it is perceived, the law shall rather give room or opportunity to Malawians to ask information holders on issues that affect their life.

“ For instance, the public shall have the liberty to ask the District Commissioners  or any relative office on issues such the farm subsidy programme  and public works programme, is that benefiting journalists only?” asked Ziba.

Cheke Ziba: Access to Information

The Director then urged the public to understand the importance of the information bill and give the support required, so that it is seen being passed in parliament.

“I hope that this is not a threat to legitimate information holders. What we are doing is to improve the flow of information and allow the public participate in the development of the country.

“When people are informed of government projects and programmes they take full responsibility and positively contribute towards it,” Ziba said.

To ensure that the bill is passed in the house of assembly appropriately, Ziba said their ministry will work on it with diligence.

“This is our role and let me assure the gathering here and the Malawi nation that we will play our rightful role and make sure that the issue reaches the adoption point,” he said, adding that they also planning to hold two meetings to be attended by the Directors working in public offices including the Principal Secretaries to brief them about the urgency of the matter.

Access

Anthony Kasunda, Regional Chairperson for Malawi Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) concurred with Ziba saying the Access to Information Bill was a developmental issue.

“We are not trying to empower journalists but what we want is to allow people to have access to information.

“Why should people be denied information that will likely bring about development?” wondered Kasunda.

He said once the bill is adopted, Malawians will have opportunity to search for information and use it for the benefit of the nation.

Professor Edge Kanyongolo Law Lecturer at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) said no country can develop if citizens are denied accesses to information.

Kanyongolo said by having the information readily available to the public, the public is assured of making informed decisions that would benefit government.

“You make decisions based on the information you have; this, therefore means that if the public is denied information it is likely to make wrong decisions, that would in turn affect progression of the country,” he explained.

Malawi has since 1994 had no policy that would give the citizenry room to look for information that would be of benefit to their life.

“But in 2003 MISA Malawi and the Ministry of information started drafting of the Access to Information Bill and the Information Policy.

Delegates at the consultative meeting

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