Malawi President should not weaken Access to Information law — Centre for Law and Democracy
Malawi President Peter Mutharika has been accused the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), Canadian-based non-governmental organisation, for working to weaken the Access to Information (ATI) law by demanding that it should not apply restrospectively and that it should only focus on information generated after its adoption.
President Mutharika cited two clauses in the Bill which he said he had a problem with that include a provision that would enable Malawians to recover any information that preceded the passing of the legislation and that no future Parliament would have power to change the law.
Mutharika wants the Bill to take effect from the day he sign for it.
When he met media owners in Lilongwe recently, Mutharika challenged that he would not sign the bill into law even if passed by Parliament if it maintains some sections he expressed displeasure with
“That provision [law applying retrospectively] has to go. And we cannot say no future Parliament can change this law, Parliament is sovereign. That also needs to be corrected,” he said.
But CLD Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas said restricting the right to information to future documents would “dramatically undermine the impact of the law.”
He said: “Rather than weakening the Bill, the priority for the government should now be on getting it passed into law.”
CLD which works internationally to promote fundamental rights for democracy, with an emphasis on freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to information and digital rights also recommends that the Bill should overrule Malawi’s Official Secrets Act to the extent of any conflict.
“Exceptions for personal privacy and Cabinet records should be significantly narrowed in scope. Malawi should commit to dedicating additional resources for the oversight body. The law should make it clear that it applies to the office of the President,” some of the recommendations by CLD.
Meanwhile, civil rights activist Michael Usi told a news conference that ogovernment has to fast-track the process of taking the ATI Bill to Parliament for enactment, saying the legislation is a must-have in a democracy.
“ATI is not any other bill as it is a very important enabler for Malawians to know critical information in terms of what has been or is happening. The bill is also a strategic development tool, as such it is not an option for any country,” said Usi.
“The bill is not targeting any individual or group of people; therefore, government need not be worried with it neither should any authority be afraid of the bill. It is a bill that seeks to empower ordinary people who for a while have been trampled on,” he added.
Ministry of Information, Tourism and Civic Education has promised that the Bill would be tabled at the Mid-term Budget Review which starts this February.
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ATI will only be a fierce bulldog if it retains these two carnines. Otherwise it will be toothless.
I do not agree that no future parliament can change the law. I also do not agree that we apply the law for the past period. Why only ATI Law to be used as a very special law? This is myopic thinking. Things change. This means no development if you say no future parliament can change the law. This is the same as Life President Law which we had in Malawi. Malawians we should learn from history. We should not hide behind certain individuals for their popularity on the ATI Law. Do not just clap hands for the donors all… Read more »
kodi munthu mmodzi nkulimbana ndi tosefe nkupambana? osatheka. ife tigwira ntchito kuthana ndi oipayo
zangoonetseratu kuti pali corruption but Malawi will not just let it be but to uproot that evil practice with no mercy.
Civil society in Malawi are have gone to sleep. There is no area that seem to work. For them come out & worn apm for failing to propel Malawi out from abyss.
Why is Peter afraid of this ATI ?Pali bii pali minga zoona.By not signing even if the Parliament Approves the Bill as it is,will prompt the whole country to call for Demonstration for you to RESIGN PEACEFULLY or else be forced to step down.Parliament has all the Powers to IMPEACH you,Mr President.Try what you are saying and you will see your downfall/zoopsya zomwe sunadzionepo.Zoonadi munthu akamafa amayamba kugotha m’makutu ndiye zimenezi mufuna kuchitazi.Yelekezani muone m’mene a Malawi angakuchotsereni pa mpando mutsakufuna.
Opitala mukuopa chani? Mpakana kunena kuti u will not sign even if the parliament passes it! Koma ndiyetu
Kodi Mr Allan Ntata alikuti? asowa bwanji.
ATI is targeting thugs, thieves and all crooks in our society. Evil men will not support it, honest men will support it.
I pray that God should just call you or you honorably resign. Tatopa nawe. Indirectly killing thousands of people. Mulowelelepo ambuye Inu.