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Government seeks media, CSOs support on ATI

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CHIMWENDO BANDA—It will take the involvement of various stakeholders

Minister of Homeland Security, Richard Chimwendo Banda, has asked civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media to support the government as it plans to roll out the operationalisation of and compliance with the Access to Information (ATI) Act.

Chimwendo Banda 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.

He made the remarks in Lilongwe on Monday evening during an event to commemorate this year’s Freedom of Expression Day. The event was organised by the Free Expression Institute (FPI).

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Chimwendo Banda said the Tonse Alliance administration recognises that operationalisation of the ATI Act is one step to end the era of government secrecy and usher in the dawn of government accountability.

“But let me state here that it will take the active involvement of various stakeholders, including the Free Expression Institute to support the operationalisation of and compliance with the Access to Information Act,” he said.

Chimwendo Banda also stated that the Tonse Alliance government will not allow another ‘July 20 massacre’ even when citizens take to the streets to demand certain services.

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In his remarks, FPI board member Godfrey Chisusu challenged the new administration to deliver a democratic government that strives to attain transparency by, among others, providing information that is relevant, up to date and accurate.

Chisusu emphasised that Malawi needs to regard freedom of expression as an important component of a democratic development.

“There can be no democracy without institutions that guarantee freedom of expression and the existence of free media. It is, therefore, imperative that we all join hands to create a culture and a state of mind that fosters tolerance and respect for other people and their opinions,” he said.

Meanwhile, FPI has presented trophies to some individuals who have played a crucial role in the promotion of freedom of expression and democratic governance in Malawi.

The awardees include Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Chifundo Kachale. And posthumously, the institute has awarded Epiphania Bonjesi, the girl who was killed by a stray bullet as police shot at protesters some 16 years ago at Chilobwe in Blantyre.

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