Misa commends gazetting of ATI Bill


A revised Access to Information (ATI) Bill, which Cabinet approved, recently has a number of highlighted issues, including a fine of K2 million for those who misuse information and payment of a fee to access information.

According to the Bill, which was gazetted on Friday February 19, 2016, and circulated to members of Parliament on Tuesday, information officers cannot give some information.

“An information holder may refuse information holder may refuse to disclose information that is exempt from public disclosure and inform an applicant in writing of the decision. An information holder shall notify an applicant when requested information cannot be found and give evidence of steps taken to find information,” reads a memorandum of the Bill.


It proceeds: “A person, who without any authority of an information holder, misuses disclosed information commits an offence and shall be liable to pay a penalty of K2,000,000 and serve an imprisonment term of two years.”

The Bill has also outlined fines for officers who conceal information.

“Any person who willfully conceals, destroys, mutilates falsifies or otherwise alters a document or record containing information which has been requested with intent to prevent disclosure of information, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine of K250,000 and imprisonment term not exceeding six months,”


I t also says where information holder wrongfully denies to disclose information either through negligence, recklessness or otherwise shall be liable to a fine of K250,000.

On the fees, the Bill says an information officer shall charge prescribed fees to be paid by the applicant.

“The fees payable by an applicant under this Act, shall be limited to reasonable, standard charges for document duplication, translation or transcription, where necessary,” reads the bill.

Unlike on the issue of fines, the Bill does not give exact amount.

The preliminary part of the Bill highlights the interpretation of the Bill.

“In this Act unless the context otherwise requires- ‘Court’ means High Court of Malawi; ‘information’ includes an original or copy of any material, record or document which communicates facts, opinion data or any other matter regardless of its form, characteristics or date of creation, that is in the custody or under control of any information holder to which this Act applies,” reads the Bill.

A similar section of the previous Bill, dated October 31 2015, apart from citing the High Court, also talked about the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).

But the MHRC is missing on the new Bill.

The Bill also says the future Act shall apply to information in the custody or under the control of any some information holders.

“The Act shall not apply to the following information: Cabinet records and those of its committees, b) court record prior to conclusion of a matter (c) information excluded from publication under the official Secrets Act,”

In an interview on Tuesday evening, Media Institute of Southern Africa Malawi Chapter (Misa-Malawi) chairperson said the gazetting of the Bill itself is a welcome development as it will allow stakeholders to scrutinise it critically and provide their opinions on the same.

Khanje added that Misa- Malawi will sit down with its legal team and experts to see whether the Bill serves its purpose which is making sure that information is made available without unnecessary hurdles.

“We know what is there in the previous draft bill and we will compare with the one that has been gazetted and see if there are areas which have been removed or added where it should not have been the case,” Khanje said.

He added that once Misa- Malawi has the gazetted Bill in its possession, the institution will come up with its relevant position.

“I f we think it has been diluted, we will act accordingly likewise if it has been strengthened. We will obviously engage Members of Parliament (MPs) so that they can handle debate on the bill in a manner that appeals to Malawians,” Khanje said.

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