The Access to Information (ATI) Bill will be one of several bills the government will table in the National Assembly in Lilongwe next week, Leader of the House George Chaponda announced yesterday.
He made the announcement just before Parliament adjourned for this week-end’s recess.
He added that there will also be ministerial statements from the ministries of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and Lands, Housing and Urban Development, among other issues for discussion, including a continuation of general debate on the floor on the 2016/17 Budget Statement.
Even the drafting of the bill has been a 12-year contentious issue which has seen the regimes of late president Bingu wa Mutharika, immediate-past president Joyce Banda and, to-date, President Peter Mutharika sometimes appearing to drag their feet about it.
When the ATI Bill was about to make it to Parliament last year, the President made modifications to it in January this year, citing glaring technical irregularities he had noted in the draft legislation.
Many stakeholders, including the media fraternity, complain that the latest version of the ‘butchered’ bill restricts journalists and other people from easily accessing public information from the government.
Malawi Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Malawi chapter chair Thom Khanje, whose organisation is a key stakeholder towards the passing of the ATI Bill in an earlier version before the Mutharika changes, told the Weekend Nation yesterday that the ATI Bill to be tabled will be the same ‘butchered’ one many people are complaining about.
He hoped the bill would promptly be referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication, which should act as an arbiter to a revised bill.
“Our position is that the Parliamentarians and the Media Committee should not approve the bill in its current form,” Khanje stressed.