Malawi MPs urged to reject ‘adulterated’ information bill: CSOs say it has ‘undemocratic elements’

Malawi Parliament has been urged by civil society organisations to reject the adulterated Access to Information Bill (ATI) when government tables it in Parliament.

Mtambo :Malawi parliament should reject the undemocratic bill

Mtambo :Malawi parliament should reject the undemocratic bill

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times expressing their “disappointment” at the “undemocratic elements” in the gazetted ATI.

Some sections which are vital according to campaigners of the proposed law  have been removed by government after President Peter Mutharika declared them ‘inconsistent’.

President Mutharika and his Cabinet have removed Clause 6, which invalidated any other laws restricting the disclosure of information and stopped future parliaments from passing laws which infringed on the rights and obligations of the ATI law.

The clause  now reads: “This Act shall apply to information in the custody or under the control of any public body, relevant private body or other information holders listed in the Schedule hereto.”

But in a joint statement signed by CHRR and Cedep executive directors Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence respectively, the two human rights  organisations said the gazetted Bill is an affront to transparency and accountability it purported to entrench in the country, much as it portrays a serious aversion to democratic tenets on the part of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The two groups call the chopping of important sections as a “missed opportunity for democracy.”

Among concerns are the introduction of fees for Malawians to access information to be determined by a public or private body “limited to reasonable, standard charges for document duplication, translation or transcription where necessary”, according to Clause 18.

The rights campaigners said charging of fees to access information is contrary to the spirit of the legislation, which is a realisation of Section of the Constitution under the Bill of Rights.

“The latest Bill only vindicates those of us who had long-held fears against President Prof. Peter Mutharika’s insistence to iron out ‘inconsistencies’ as well as ‘align the bill with other laws’ before tabling in parliament.

“Specifically we draw the attention of the nation to the following:

  • Scrapping of a provision that information holders should disclose information in the public interest such as unauthorised use of public funds;
  • The introduction of fees for Malawians to access to information
  • Removal of provision which would have enabled people to demand information before the law was enacted.

“We find the aforementioned grey areas a regrettable attempt by government to render the Information toothless in this democratic dispensation”.

CHRR and Cedep said the information law, if enacted in its gazetted version, will fall short of addressing key issues such as Cashgate as well as other forms of power-abuse.

“It is in view of this that CHRR and Cedep are calling upon all well-meaning parliamentarians to reject the gazetted version of the Bill once tabled in parliament till such highlighted concerns are addressed in line with the Constitution of Malawi, the supreme law of the land,” reads the statement in part.

According to the gazetted bill, government has removed Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) as the oversight body on the right to information.

Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango justified changes on MHRC, saying government wants to  “shorten the process and remove bottlenecks” and that the commission has no capacity to handle the oversight role.

He said instead  the courts will be used in place of MHRC if people have complaints about not getting information as requested.

The Bill was gazetted on February 19 2016 and has since appeared on the Order Paper of Business for the ongoing Mid-year Budget review meeting of Parliament under notices as Bill No. 1 of 2016.

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Please share this Article if you like Email This Post Email This Post

More From Nyasatimes

More From the World

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
The Real Analyst
Guest
The Real Analyst
7 months 6 days ago
If the 3 points are the bone of contention then I would urge MPs to pass the bill. We can pay for printing and transmission costs of information. That’s no big deal. Laws are not supposed to apply retrospectively, so I don’t see the need for this one to be an exception. Therefore point number 3 is invalid. Point number 1, on information regarding unauthorised use of public funds I see no need to be specific. The law didn’t need to list the types of information that we can access. It’s all public information unless it is classified. The law… Read more »
Kandapako
Guest
Kandapako
7 months 6 days ago

The reaction of MISA Malawi Chapter and Media Council of Malawi to this ATI issue makes more sense than this self serving reaction from CHRR and CEDEP.

NZOZO KUNUNKHA
Guest
NZOZO KUNUNKHA
7 months 6 days ago

Zaulele till when a Ntambo? put on a sober face such that your political masters can see your logic. If you have nothing to say say nothing at all than wasting our time reading your clueless articles

Katundu
Guest
7 months 6 days ago

sorry for this govt time is nigh

citizen 1
Guest
citizen 1
7 months 6 days ago

APM doesn’t want this bill to be passed.
He has made deliberate changes to the original bill so that once it is rejected in parliament then all blame will go to MP’s.

This president is taking us backwards eish

mike
Guest
7 months 6 days ago

if i can buy aspirin why cant i buy infor? Why cant you fight for courts to be free? A ntambo tadzionani thupilo kunusira simukudyera momwemo inu? Chomaliza chotsani chibangiricho pamkonopo tiwone ngati……

mbwiyache
Guest
mbwiyache
7 months 7 days ago

Lets forget that Malawi’s problems will be dealt with by politicians, forget it. Ziri m’dzikomuno n’zatonse, mapoliticians ali pabwino ordinary Malawians too much taxes, higher inflation rates+ higher commodity prices, rampant armed robberies, etc

Chambe
Guest
Chambe
7 months 7 days ago

Imagin I being a private citizen of Malawi privileged to a very vital information that would assist journalist and any other concerned citizen. Do you think you could obtain it for no penny? Who will bear admin costs other costs? You will not get it for free even under the court order. I would apply an injunction for this very reason.

mbalanguzi
Guest
mbalanguzi
7 months 7 days ago

Am sure Pitala is getting more and more mad, wamisala wa kwa nkando, mavizi ake. …

kwacha a malawi
Guest
kwacha a malawi
7 months 7 days ago
A couple of meanings of ‘adulterated’ are contaminated, impure, tainted, poisoned, infected, polluted, dirty etc. My surprise is that people who are legally in the know like Danwood Chirwa, sunduzwayo Madise, Malawi law Society have remained mum on the mentioned ‘inconsistencies’ to help put the record straight. Are the inconsistencies not making the original ATI adulterated since some legal novices in the name of CSO leaders/media houses gurus want the ATI polluted with their ill-intentions and victimize Malawians in perpetuity? Mind you, the information will essentially be sought by people in newspaper business to make money on their publications and… Read more »
wpDiscuz