The Panos Institute Southern Africa has called on newly appointed minister of information Gospel Kazako to speed up the operationalisation of the Access to Information Act (ATI).
Parliament enacted the act in 2016 before former president Peter Mutharika assented to it in 2018.
In a statement Thursday Panos institute urges Kazako to prioritise building a vibrant media sector that will amplify voices of all Malawians on development issues affecting them apart from enhancing engagement between citizens and decision makers.
“As a starting point towards this, we encourage Kazako to expedite the operationalisation of the Access to Information (ATI) Act, we call on him [Kazako] to make implementation of the ATI law as one of his priorities as it presents increased opportunities for citizens to access information held by public entities and enhanced citizen participation in decision making processes”. The statement reads in part.
The statement also says the ATI could work for the good of the new administration providing them with a more suitable platform for them (the citizenry) to interact more with public entities and voicing out on issues of concern to them.
It says the law also has provisions which if passed could increase the local media’s ability to hold decision makers to account and thereby improve public service delivery.
“The law has provisions which we are confident will strengthen investigative journalism, which will enable the media to effectively play its role as a watchdog, as the fourth estate in the new administration”. Reads the statement which has been signed by Panos Institute’s Executive Director Vusumuzi Sifile.
In his inaugural speech on Monday, President Lazarus Chakwera committed to the operationalisation of the ATI apart from other duties aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability on affairs of the state.
Chakwera also pledged his commitment to be accountable to Malawians by among others going to parliament to answer questions and meeting with the leader of opposition every three month.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.