The Public Relations Society of Malawi (PRSM) has called on the government of Malawi to put on hold the gazetting and operationalisation of the Access to Information (ATI) Act regulations.
But Minister of Information Gospel Kazako has said that the government will go ahead with the processes.
In a statement released Sunday, PRSM commends the new administration for its “commitment and sense of urgency to operationalise the Act”, but cautions that adequate consultations should be done with prospective implementation agencies and other stakeholders.
“While PRSM commends the new administration for its commitment, it has noted with concern and serious reservations that the regulations have been drafted without stakeholder consultations. This is a serious omission in a democratic dispensation,” reads the statement signed by the body’s president Lewis Msasa.
The statement further states that the draft regulations in the current form have serious gaps and impractical demands that will certainly undermine the implementation of the ATI Act.
“PRSM believes that a slight delay in the gazetting of the regulations to allow reasonable consultations with stakeholders, including heads of implementation agencies and their communications personnel as well as relevant professional bodies, is important and necessary for the successful operationalisation of the ATI Act,” the statement reads.
But Kazako insisted that the government is not turning back on its plans to operationalise the law.
“The Act is now law, Malawians through their representatives [MPs] took it to Parliament where it was passed; the President assented to it and we are going ahead because it is long overdue.
“We need to make progress as a country on this law. Indeed there will be hitches here and there in the implementation process, but the best thing to do now is for us to start moving and fine-tune the law as we go,” Kazako said.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Malawi Chapter, which was among the most notable advocates for the passing and implementation of the ATI, was not immediately available to comment.
The ATI has not been operational since it was passed in December 2016 and assented into law in 2017. It seeks to allow Malawians easily access information from holders and duty-bearers, among others.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.