Misa Malawi chair gives govt thumbs-down over Information bill delay

The Access to Information (ATI) Bill, which Malawi President Peter Mutharika promised to implement and expedite its enactment process, is not among the items on the agenda for the sitting of Parliament which started on Monday.

Khanje: We need information bill as soon as yesterday

Khanje: We need information bill as soon as yesterday

But Mutharika, who has been promising to expedite the process to enact the Access to Information Bill into law, says his government will table the Bill in subsequent sittings of Parliament along with bills that have also been left out.

Ironically, this is contrary to his earlier promise made when he took over the presidency that bill would be presented in the last sitting of Parliament which took place in September 2014.

Addressing Journalists in Lilongwe Tuesday, Mutharika reiterated that his government is aware that access to information is a major challenge for the media to ably play their important role.

“Priority has been given bills that were left out in previous sittings of parliament. Parliament cannot table all bills at one go. Other bills including the Access to Information and Mining Bill will be tabled during the next sitting of parliament.

“My government still committed to tabling to the access to information bill,” said Mutharika.

But reacting to this, Misa Malawi chairperson Thom Khanje doubted if the bill will breath to life.

“Despite all the promises by the President (Mutharika) and his government on ATI, history seems to be repeating itself on the bill.

“Since 2003 when the Media Institute of Southern Africa- Malawi Chapter (Misa-Malawi) started the campaign on ATI, all the three previous governments have played similar games and tricks on the bill,” said Khanje.

He therefore said to hear that the bill is not the agenda for Parliament is “quiet disappointing, frustrating and worrying”.

“Has the Peter Mutharika government now started playing tricks on ATI? Were the promises in the manifesto and maiden speeches just smokescreen?” queried Khanje.

According to him, delays in processing the bill at both the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Justice have the potential to put the integrity of the administration into question as they will be seen as people who can’t keep their promises.

“It is not too late to bring the Access to Information Bill into Parliament before the current sitting rises. President Mutharika needs to intervene on the matter to make sure that officials in the Ministry of Justice process the bill and make it ready for discussion in the National Assembly,” said Khanje.

He also said 20 years is too long a time for Malawians to continue being given excuses on the bill.

“With all the promises and lies we have heard in the past regarding the bill, it will be difficult for anybody to take any more promises on the bill.

“What the people and the media want now is presentation of the bill in Parliament and nothing else.

“Thumbs down to the government technocrats for letting down the President,” he stressed.

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7 thoughts on “Misa Malawi chair gives govt thumbs-down over Information bill delay”

  1. Kingsley Jika says:

    There is no question that the country needs Access to Public Information legislation, ATPIL or ATI, if you want. ATI is a key to transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and legitimacy. In fact, ATI would be a solution to most problems dogging our beautiful nation, Malawi, because it empowers the public to monitor their servants – those entrusted with leadership. My fear however is that the way the issue of ATI is put forth is as if it is solely an agenda by the media and for the media. The media ought to work to divorce themselves from ATI while setting agenda for it. ATI is for everyone: you cannot talk of public service reforms without the issue of ATI; you cannot talk of declaration of assets without addressing the question of ATI; you cannot talk of electoral legitimacy without the issue of ATI as a facet of Open Government.
    In the same vein, you cannot address the question of ATI properly is you refuse to discuss openly the issue of E-Bill, Copyright, Trademarks, Patents etc. because these tools too have a bearing on disclosure.
    Let us address a number of issues together because they have a bearing on ATI. The reason many seem to run away from ATI is that people are not assured that once ATI becomes a public instrument we want it to become, order shall prevail.
    I am not surprised the government cowers on this; we approach the whole thing from a rather intimidatory perspective. Talk to government and show it why democracy is unworkable in the absence of Open Government of which ATI is one instrument. Assure those in power that ATI is for us all, not for the media, and let the media also assure the public they will use the instrument for the good of democracy.

  2. Everyone knows that you Thom Khanje your a big time DPP supporter. you were even given financial support by the statehouse through its press office during the time you were campaigning for this position some three months ago.
    Lero ndi uyu ukakanika kulankhura zoveka instead you are accusing wrong people instead of pointing fingers to Peter Mutharika and his information minister Nankhumwa just because your a DPP supporter since Bingu’s era.
    Malawian journalists including you mumangogwitsidwa ntchito ngati condom by politicians especially those from the rulling side because your poor.
    local scribes even fail to fight for their own financial rights at their work places ndipo ambirinu simulandira salary mumangogwira ntchito mwaulere kumadalira ndalama za ma workshop oti sanakuitaneni mkomwe. Chitsazo ndi Galaxy, Capital Fm, Star radio, MANA, Matindi and other radio stations they don’t pay their workers at all.
    Zitsilu za anthu ndiye Malawian journalists because they are fortune seekers!!!!!

  3. ANALYST says:

    Thom Khanje is himself DPP! He should not be surprised that the bill is not going to be tabled coz he (Khanje) knows the party inside out!

  4. Achimidzimidzi says:

    Mr. Khanje, I do understand your frustrations.
    Unfortunately, you’re dealing with the people since 2003, politicians.

    Lest you forget, this ruling party had to cheat for them to win general election. The previous government, was just a trustee kind of, nothing serious did they do.

    Just to give you hope; keep on waiting, time will come when your bill will be tabled.

  5. proud says:

    Akhanje mwatchukatu — thukuta lanu limeneli, pitirizani kulimbika

  6. The Truthful One from the West says:

    Are sure Mr Khanje it is government technocrats who have let down the president on this matter? Do you have evidence for this serious accusation? Mr Khanje you are accusing people who cannot answer back. It is Nankhumwa whom you should accuse because he is Minister of Information and govt spokesperson and he can answer back. Mr Khanje on this you have goofed big time. If this is how you will act as Chairperson of Misa then you will bring Misa into disrepute. Public servants whom you call technocrats work under the directions of Ministers and the president. I assure you Mr Khanje if the president directed today that the Access to information bill be tabled in this sitting of parliament it will happen. If we want Malawi to improve people such as you Mr Khanje should stop blaming people who are innocent and cannot answer back. The public service efficiency went down because of excessive interference from politicians. If the public service reform commission whose members have never worked in the public service(except Mangulama) do not find a way to tackle this problem their proposed reforms will not be of much benefit.

    1. kanchenga. says:

      I am also surprised that he is accusing the wrong people like that. You see now how hopeless you become when you allow your conscious to be compromised for cheap gains. You are now unable to face these politicians incase they remind you of the road you traveled together.

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