Malawi opposition trashes adulterated ATI bill: ‘Roadblock to information not access’

Speaker Richard Msowoya on Friday referred to parliamentary committees the Access to Information bill after the opposition tore it apart, saying the bill was in actual sense a roadblock to information as it is “adulterated”.

 Opposition Members of parliament query doctored ATI

Opposition Members of parliament query doctored ATI

Malawi Congress Party (MCP)  MP for Lilongwe East Ezekiel Ching’oma  said it was uncalled for for the government to demand a fee for any person wishing to obtain information from a public office.

“There are poor people struggling to make ends meet but want information…This shows the government does not want to give out information, the MCP therefore says information should be provided for free,” he said.

He said the Republican Constitution is very clear that everyone should access information for free.

“We do not have to force people pay for a service they are supposed to get for free,” he said.

Chingoma also took on the government for including a clause in the bill which bars people from getting information which happened before the bill became into law – retrospectively.

“This defeats the whole purpose of of the bill. We are coming from a long history of rigid regime therefore the bill should not give room to public officers who do not want to give out information, this is retrogressive,” he said.

He described as an embarrasment the clause that bars people from getting information which happened before the bill became into law.

The MCP lawmaker said it is only a criminal law which does not allow retrospective crimininalisation.

“People should get access to public information from time immemorial otherwise this bill is useless, what is it that the government is hiding,” asked Chingoma.

Added he: “Malawians have  a right to know how their government has been operating in the past. This is the only way they can hold their government accountable. They need to know what has been happening at Capital Hill because this government is run with their money.”

Spokesperson for Peoples Party , Agness Nyalonje urged the parliamentarians not to view the bill as a war between politicians and journalists but rather for the good of the country as it will enhance checks and balances for the government for a vibrant democracy.

“Information without its archive is useless,” said Nyalonje.

“This bill is not giving public access to information but is denying the,” she noted.

Leader of the House George Chaponda then asked Msowoya to refer the bill to Media committee and Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament.

The Bill was gazetted on February 19 2016.

But local media watchdog, Misa-Malawi and other civil rights groups accuse the government of doctoring and adultering the bill, saying it would be one of the worst laws in the world if parliament passes it as it is.

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep) also added their voice expressing their “disappointment” at the “undemocratic elements” in the gazetted bill.

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13 thoughts on “Malawi opposition trashes adulterated ATI bill: ‘Roadblock to information not access’”

  1. Haswel Bandawe says:

    The Access to Infirmation(ATI) Act is one of the pillars of democratic governance.
    Retrospect use of it is absolutely essential.

    It must be remembered that there has been systematic abuses of power by successive Governments since Independece.

    As a country, we can only learn from the mistakes made over the years in order to avoid making repeating them. The nation will live on; governments come and go. It is unfortunate that short-sighted selfish considerations of those currently in power want to deny the present and future generations the right to know how their country was governed at different times before 2016.

    We are able to know the abuses of the colonial period because we can access information from that far back. Even the law for the Nuremberg Trials after the Second World War was applied retrospectively based on information available before the law was passed. That was also the case with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act in South Africa.

    The Interest of the country must be paramount.

    There is no need for cost recovery for public information. The relevant people in the Ministry of Information or any government institution requested to provide needed information will
    be on Government salary.

  2. James says:

    I think paying for the information is good. Maybe the anticipate price we should be worried about.

  3. VYOTO says:

    Kuzolowela ma 10% a Mota Engil eti? This DPP Government of the professor president is in total shambles.The ATI bill has been one of the conditions for the Development Partners(DPs) or Donors to resume their Aids taps yet the manner and lack of seriousness that the Peter Muthalika administration has handled the ATI bill is quite regrettable.Our own Govt is against our own interests?Both Peter and Atupele used to tell their illiterate brothers, sisters and cousins that once JB is voted out of Govt, they will bring back the DPs .Now that they are in Govt, their administration is failing even to meet the simplest of the Donors requirements( ATI bill to be put into law).In the end, they are taking advantage of the same illiterate brothers, sisters and cousins to kill us through unreasonable taxes.How i hate to listen to Peter claiming he is the first president to run Government without Donor budget support when we know that he has been sleeping over the same Donors’ set conditions.

    Believe me, if only Dr Chakwera was elected president in 2014, Donors could have been with us by now.

  4. John Black says:

    MPs have the right to amendment. This means they can change a bill before passing it into law. IN this case they should simply revert the bill to its unadultered state and pass it into law. It is their constitutional right! (and it conforms to our constitutional right to information!)

  5. Bwana says:

    Inu a DPP ngati mukuona kuti kuyendetsa boma kwavuta – it’s too hot inside – just move out. Nobody will miss afterall the downward spiral and misery you have caused to us the genuine citizens

  6. Ben says:

    To be honest government is indeed run by opposition this time around. kunakakhala kulibe ana amenewa ku mcp and pp zinthuzi amalawi anakalankhula kumbali yathu ndi ndani?? zikomo kwambiri mcp

  7. ANALYST says:

    This is exactly what this mafia DPP government wanted – to “adulterate” the Bill, then refer it to the relevant committee so that they start a “second phase” of playing hide-and-seek with the bill! If we have this Bill back in parliament within the next year or so, we will be very lucky as a nation! Cry my beloved nation

  8. tsetsefly says:

    We are watching and following the deliberations. Anything that comes out and that has potential to infringe any rights to access to information will be met with severe resistance. Those agitating for such infringements must wear thick skin because we will not accept any inch of adulteration of laws on access to information.

  9. Buyelekhaya says:

    Boma la DPP limadziwa bwino lomwe kuti biloyi ikapita ku nyumba yamalamulo ikathilidwa madzi ozizira. Zomwe ankafuna zachitika! Paja tisaiwale kuti wina adanena kuti tidikire 2024! Lero ndi izi!

  10. Mwangonde says:

    Africans are stupid people. They want everything for free. There is no free lunch. There is nothing like free something. Stop that retrogressive mentality. You want good services but you don’t want to pay for those services. So, who is going to provide those services? Who is going to incur the costs involved in providing that information? Are you going to bear those costs, I mean you miserable looking faces in the pic above?

    At least now I can get government information easily as long as I have a little something to pay for the services of those who will provide that information to me. Since time immemorial Malawians never had this opportunity. After all it was DPP who promised to give us this opportunity not you in the pic above.

    1. Thinktank says:

      To pay for right to information? That’s nonsense! That’s a ploy to make it difficult for those seeking to see how public officials are conducting people’s business

    2. Charlie Hebdo says:

      I have never seen a more myopic reasoning than Mr Mwangonde’s. Are you aware that all Malawians pay taxes? Much as it is the duty of Malawian citizens to pay taxes, it is also the duty of their government to provide information to its citizens without impediments. The government is accountable to its people and accountability cannot flourish in the face of obstructions to information. In your reasoning, it is okay for Malawians to pay to have access to information while their president does not pay taxes despite having everything provided for for free.

      1. Mwangonde says:

        This is the stupidity I talked about. The presidency did not choose not to pay tax. You stupid Malawians constitutionalized it that the presidency should not be paying tax. And today you are crying that the presidency does not pay tax. Total stupidity!

        Mind you, it will be rich institutions like The Daily Times, National Newspaper, etc who will often need that information and not poor villagers. Poor villages don’t care about that information as long as there is improvements in their lives.

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