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AU member states urged to implement ATI law

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Close to six years after Malawi enacted the Access to Information law, there has been little to brag about and now the African Union is urging its member states to take decisive steps on the legislation if the battle against corruption is to bear fruits

The African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) has called on African Union member states to pass and implement Access to Information (ATI) laws as one way of showing that they remain resolute in fighting corruption.

Executive Secretary for the body, Charity Nchimunya, said this in Kenya during a media engagement this week in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The media provide crucial voices that demand accountability and transparency from the public and private sectors, hence AU countries should pass and implement Access to Information laws,” Nchimunya said.

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He further told the gathering that Article 12 of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption calls upon AU member states to fully engage the civil society and media in the fight against corruption.

She therefore urged the media not to relent in its role in educating, informing, and acting as watchdogs.

She said her organisation has been engaging with the relevant structures of the African Union to explain to all the member states the need for access to information for the media.

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Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) Willy Kambwandira regretted the continued resistance by state agencies to proactively provide information to citizens in Malawi.

“Despite the operationalisation of the ATI law in Malawi, citizens and the media continue to chase for information from public officers. The Malawi Human Rights Commission, which is the key implementer for the law, is also poorly funded. This does not demonstrate government’s commitment to promote transparency and accountability,” Kambwandira said.

Malawi enacted its Access to Information law in December 2016 and was assented to by the Head of State in February 2017 and finally operationalised in September 2020.

But since then, little has materialised, prompting a fresh push by advocates for the implementing agencies to wake up from their deep slumber.

Article 12 of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption urges State parties to be fully engaged in the fight against corruption and related offences and the popularization of the convention with the full participation of the media and the civil society.

The article further mandates State parties to create a conducive environment to enable civil society and the media to hold governments to the highest levels of transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs, in the process ensuring and providing for the participation of civil society in the monitoring process and consulting civil society in the implementation.

Senior Policy Officer for Economics and Statistical Matters at the African Union, Martha Khungwa Munthali, said the media has been deemed a practical and effective tool to foster awareness on corruption as well as carry voices that demand accountability and transparency from the public and private sectors.

“Through investigative journalism, media outlets in African Union countries have been key whistle blowers, holding the government accountable in the management of public affairs,” Munthali said.

During the engagement, journalists shared lessons and challenges they face in their respective countries and discussed practical solutions to effective reporting on corruption as a means to strengthen the fight against corruption.

Established in 2009 to invigorate the fight against corruption, AUABC has been lobbying countries to ratify its convention to facilitate the elimination of corruption on the continent.

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