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.

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17 thoughts on “Malawi MPs urged to reject ‘adulterated’ information bill: CSOs say it has ‘undemocratic elements’”

  1. The Real Analyst says:

    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 should then define the criteria for classifying information.
    Now Jappie Mhango was as hollow in his response as his accusers! Why not focus your comments on the specific issues raised? APM, consider firing this man and replacing him by someone with a brain.

  2. Kandapako says:

    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.

  3. NZOZO KUNUNKHA says:

    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

  4. Katundu says:

    sorry for this govt time is nigh

  5. citizen 1 says:

    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

  6. mike says:

    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……

  7. mbwiyache says:

    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

  8. Chambe says:

    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.

  9. mbalanguzi says:

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

  10. kwacha a malawi says:

    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 not the local man in the village. It is wise for charge for information sought as the info will cost money to store and retrieve.
    And its oversight should be with the courts which have abundance of expertise not MHRC-a simple mixture of novices drawn from a myriad of irrelevant fields.

  11. Kadango says:

    I really regret seeing this man running affairs of my nation a few greedy peaple helpd this guy into the hot seat while the while whole suffers at his hand ,if really u want to go continue the way u a doing Muthalika rest in peace

  12. Victor jumbo says:

    This man called APM will do more harm than good to the people of Malawi. His degrees are not helping himself and certainly not benefitting the the majority poor Malawians. It seems he is hiding something that would be made known by this Access to information bill and trying hard to protect the bad deeds of his late brothers during his leadership. He is behaving like a mafia more than one a good leader. From the presidential election results which were marred by seriously irregularities, lack of swift actions to deal with cashgate scandals, lack of good planning in food security, the dubious sale of Malawi Savings Bank and now the persecutions of opposition leaders raises eyeblow
    I for one certainly would not trust this APM for he appears to be a leader without vision , does not make sound judgements and is the best captain who can steer the ship from deep waters to the shore. He is incompetent of discharging of his duties honestly, diligently, can’t uphold the rule of law and is proving to be there for only his benefits and of his cohorts. I have lost my confidence in him. Big time

  13. voice says:

    Another ntchito for our judge.Rrgardless of the fact that they have alot cases to attaind to.We have failed to appreciate the pressure of work that is in your offices.Mwadziwa liti kuti process ya thru MHRC ndi yayitali.And now i have to buy information.forget about the dublication thing bcz there r flash disks out here.Mwagwa nayo.

  14. Ojambula says:

    Politics, politics, politics! That’s the typical of DPP, I have always said it time and again that the APM led Government can’t bring this ATI bill to be tabled in parliament without altering it. They are afraid of the MK577 billion cash- gate thing. Fortunate enough it has come at a time when there’s bad blood between the government and the opposition. There will be struggles I guess as MCP and PP have teamed up due to the recent three MCP executive members’ arrest. This will give them tough time in parliament with government business. Even without being told they know that the way it has been doctored no any sensible Member of Parliament would be ready to pass it into Bill. Let’s just wait n c. Ife athu ndi maso!

    1. Who cares? says:

      Nanuso inu … who doesn’t know that K577 billion was cashgated between 2009 and 2014 with over 90% of it cashgated between 2012 and first quarter of 2014? This information is in the public domain. You can’t cheat anybody.

  15. Who Cares? says:

    So who will be the loser if parliaments rejects this bill? Government? Hehehehehe why can’t you just thank this government for trying their best to fulfill their election campaign promises?

  16. Pat says:

    Thanks for the information. Am glad that the minister of information has managed to give us the government’s side of story on certain things. We will have to engage MHRC to ask them whether they do not have the capacity to perform the role as was envisioned in the original bill.

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