Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) says the Access to Information Bill will be implemented before the year ends as most preparatory work for the implementation has been finalised.
MHRC director for civil and political rights Peter Chisi said this during a Strategy Conference on Access to Information in Malawi organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi in Lilongwe where participants were expected to come up with a roadmap of strategising the actual implementation of the Act into a law.
“If all goes well, by the end of this year we can recommend that the Act starts being implemented. I just have to say it here that it is not the Ministry of Information that delayed the actual implementation, it is because of us. Not that we were delaying deliberately, but we were scrutinising all the human rights aspects governing this law,” he said.
Misa Malawi and its partners have been pushing for ATI legislation since 2004 when the first draft Bill was developed. This process stalled in 2009 when government stated that the country needed a policy on ATI before the bill could proceed to Parliament.
Misa Malawi chairperson Tereza Ndanga said in an interview that the conference will give a road map on what the team which was set to come up with documents to facilitate the implementation tailor what they have already done as the country awaits the actual rolling of the implementation.
“The Act is not yet effective as the Minister of Information is yet to set a date for the law to be operational. Further, enactment alone is not enough to ensure enjoyment of this right. As Misa Malawi, we believe that this meeting will brainstorm and develop a roadmap to guide implementation of this important law,” she said.
Chairperson for Malawi Parliamentary Committee on Media and Communications, Sam Kawale said the delay in making the act into law is understandable as many steps need to be taken and MHRC need to put their house in order on issues of funding and civic education.
“Personally, I feel the steps taken are right. It’s not good to rush into implementing the law simply because we are excited by the passing of the bill. We need to look at it critically,” he said.
Guest of honour at the conference, Deputy Director of Information in the Ministry of ICT, Deogratias Mmana, said the country should expect the implementation soon.
Said Mmana: “We are working hard to make sure the implementation doesn’t disadvantage people.”
Government approved a Policy on ATI in January 2014, and National Assembly passed the ATI Bill in December 2016 and the President assented to it in February 2017.