Government, through the Ministry of Information, has finally moved to operationalise the Access to Information (ATI) law.
The development was affirmed through a gazette issued yesterday by Minister of Information Gospel Kazako which singled out September 30, 2020 as the actual day the law will be fully operationalised.
In an interview with Malawi News, Kazako said journalists and the public will now have steady access to information, whether confidential or not, from duty bearers.
“Government has indeed operationalised the Access to Information Act and it will become fully operational this month, I want to ask Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media to support the government as we roll out the operationalisation of and compliance with the Access to Information Act,” he said.
He said the Act will play a critical role in the promotion of freedom of expression, which he said is a prerequisite for a workable democracy and ensuring transparency and accountability in the public sector.
Kazako explained that the Tonse Alliance administration recognises that operationalisation of the ATI Act is a step toward end of a secretive government, a development which will promote transparency and accountability.
Meanwhile, Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter, Chairperson Teresa Ndanga said media freedom has finally won.
“This is very commendable; we have been pushing for this for far too long. We however expect to see this commitment being translated into action. For instance, we expect government to allocate enough resources to the Malawi Human Rights Commission to enable it effectively carry out its oversight role,” Ndanga said.
Ndanga said she expects all public offices to fully comply, by among others, storing data properly and appointing information officers.
She further said she expects Malawians to make use of the law through demand for information and use it for the enjoyment of their various rights and also hold officials to account.
On his part, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Gift Trapence commended the government for operationalising the ATI.
“Democracy has won. The ATI will reinforce accountability from public officers. In fact, the ATI law will help citizens in the fight against corruption by accessing information duty bearers when they suspect dubious transaction or contracts,” he said.
On Thursday during his question time, President Lazarus Chakwera told Members of Parliament that his government is committed to upholding the right to freedom of expression to achieve an all-inclusive and transparent government because it has nothing to hide.