The United Nations (UN) in Malawi has commended the government for its “swift action” to gazette the date to operationalise the Access to Information Act from September 30.
In a statement issued Monday, UN Resident Coordinator, Maria Jose Torres, said the Act represents an important step forward on good governance and human rights in Malawi.
“Accessing information is a human right, which means that ordinary citizens should be able to get information as an entitlement and not as a favour,” said Torres on the occasion of the impending operationalisation of the law.
She also said it is important for all people, including those with disabilities, to be able to access public information in user-friendly formats.
“Moreover, the right to information in accessible formats, including for persons with disabilities, linguistic minorities and the rural poor is important to ensure an inclusive democracy and governance for all persons in Malawi,” Torres said.
The statement adds that the ATI’s operationalisation is a significant step towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially target number 10 of SDG 16 which seeks to ensure public access to information.
“With this milestone, Malawi becomes a role model to other countries in the region and beyond. The Act will also be essential in the fight against corruption. In this regard, the UN commends the Whistle- Blower provisions in the Act, which protect disclosure of confidential information where it is in the public interest, particularly where it exposes corruption, abuse of public office and human rights violations,” it says.
The UN also says the roles of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to independently monitor the implementation of the Act and raise awareness on its effective use will be crucial and has called on government to ensure adequate funding for MHRC to be able to fulfil these roles.
Stakeholders, including Media Institute for Southern Africa Malawi, had been advocating for the ATI law in Malawi for about 17 years.