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Canadian NGO faults Peter Mutharika on ATI

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Canadian-based non-governmental organisation, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), has faulted President Peter Mutharika for trying to weaken the Access to Information (ATI) law by demanding that it apply only to information generated after its adoption.

An analysis of the Malawi’s ATI Bill that the centre released on Monday shows that, if passed, the Bill would be one of the strongest laws in the world.

The centre ranks it 15th on the Right to Information Rating.

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In the analysis, the centre expressed surprise that since the law was published, Mutharika has called for it to be significantly weakened.

“Restricting the right to information to future documents would dramatically undermine the impact of the law. Rather than weakening the Bill, the priority for the government should now be on getting it passed into law,” CLD Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas said.

The analysis said the Bill has a number of positive features, including a relatively broad scope, strong promotional measures and a good public interest override.

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The analysis, however, reveals that there are important areas where the Bill should be improved before it is passed.

Some of the recommendations include the removal of sanctions for misuse of information that has been disclosed.

The centre also recommends that the Bill should overrule Malawi’s Official Secrets Act to the extent of any conflict.

“Exceptions for personal privacy and Cabinet records should be significantly narrowed in scope. Malawi should commit to dedicating additional resources for the oversight body. The law should make it clear that it applies to the office of the President,” some of the recommendations in the analysis read.

CLD works internationally to promote fundamental rights for democracy, with an emphasis on freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to information and digital rights.

Government spokesperson Jappie Mhango could not be reached on his mobile phone for government’s reaction on the analysis.

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