Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has moved to find a way forward on the stalled implementation of the Access To Information (ATI) law through a round-table discussion with key stakeholders.
Committee vice-chairperson Ezekiel Ching’oma said yesterday they want to meet representatives of Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
He said the committee has settled for a round-table discussion after noting conflicting responses from the three institutions on commencement date for implementation of the law.
Said Ching’oma: “We will summon all the three parties to a round-table discussion. It seems we are receiving conflicting answers from the three. We want to meet them in one place to know what is happening.”
Government approved a policy on ATI in January 2014 before Parliament passed the ATI Bill in December 2016 and President Peter Mutharika signed it into law in February 2017.
However, since the presidential assent there has been limited progress towards its practical implementation. For instance, the Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology is yet to set a commencement date for implementation as provided in the ATI Act.
During separate meetings with the committee this week, MHRC said they already drafted the regulations and submitted to Ministry of Information while the ministry says the required regulations are awaiting direction from Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs says it is waiting for the Ministry of Information to advise on the commencement date.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala said they do not act on regulations without instructions from the line ministry, in this case Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology.
During the meeting with the committee yesterday, MHRC executive secretary David Nungu said one of their roles in the implementation of the ATI Act was to draft the regulations which they did and submitted to Ministry of Information.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter, one of the key lobbyists of the ATI law, this week made a fresh push for implementation of the law.
During the opening of a regional conference on media freedom and democracy in Lilongwe on Monday, Misa-Malawi national governing council member Mandala Mambulasa, a lawyer, asked Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani, who was the guest of honour, to set a date for the implementation.
He said: “We cannot talk about freedom of expression without the ATI. Set the date for the commencement and implementation.”
When contacted to clarify on the statement he made to the media, Botomani asked for more time to consult.