Civil society groups and Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa-Malawi) have asked President Peter Mutharika to gazette the Access To Information (ATI) Bill ahead of its tabling in Parliament for the public and stakeholders to scrutinise its contents.
The calls come as Mutharika, after months of wrestling with media representatives, civil society and donors, this week nodded to the tabling of the eagerly anticipated Bill.
Speaking at a joint press briefing held in Lilongwe on Friday, the two groups while applauding Mutharika for the development, said the contentious background of the Bill necessitates that government publicises its contents immediately.
“As advocates of human rights and good governance, we are delighted with the bold step taken by government in approving the draft Bill, almost two months after sending it back to Cabinet committee on legal and constitutional affairs for review,” said Citizen for Justice executive director Reinford Mwangonde and Misa chairperson Thom Khanje in a joint statement.
Mutharika initially insisted the Bill had several irregularities, which he termed “inconsistencies”, and vowed to veto any law passed by Parliament with the same alleged inconsistencies while the media has protested that some of the provisions the President wants removed would affect the practicality of the law and damage the spirit of open governance it envisages.
Contentious areas include the desire by government to include Ministry of Information as implementation agency instead of the envisaged Malawi Human Rights Commission which was recommended by the Cabinet and an independent information commission. n