Experts have warned against abuse of Access to Information (ATI) law, saying it does not give Malawians freedom to be irresponsible by sharing sensitive and private information on social media.
Commenting on his Facebook wall in reaction to leaked information on social media which purportedly revealed salaries of employees of FMB Bank, Media Committee of Parliament chairperson Sam Kawale faulted the move, saying such behaviour is unacceptable.
“Passing and signing of ATI does not mean we should act irresponsibly. The case of FMB files,” Kawale wrote.
He further said the publication, release or sharing of the said payroll on social media was a breach of confidentiality, was a crime and the culprits must be dealt with accordingly.
“Whoever released that information should be dealt with by [the bank authorities] or whoever they will engage to sort out the mess,” he said.
According to Kawale, the law makes provisions that private information can and should only be made public with consent from the owner.
He further explained that issues of salaries and contracts for private entities should remain private.
“People’s dignity and respect have been eroded, and you never know, personal and family security might have been put at risk. The passing of the Bill seems to have been misunderstood by some people, or is being deliberately misunderstood by some,” Kawale wrote.
He further said ATI applies to public offices and institutions that receive public funding.
“It does not apply to State secrets and neither does it provide room to break doctor/patient, lawyer/client confidential information and other private matters protected by the law,” said Kawale.
He then asked Malawians to read and understand that ATI does not give a leeway to be irresponsible, but the right to hold government and public institutions accountable.
Commenting on the issue, Chancellor College associate professor of constitutional law Edge Kanyongolo said the purported leakage of the said salary file was a case of irresponsibility on the part of duty-bearers at the said bank and would not be associated with the ATI law President Peter Mutharika has just assented to.
“It was pure irresponsibility on the part of the workers and it has nothing to do with the Access to Information law,” he said.
In his remarks, Misa Malawi Chapter chairperson Thom Khanje said the leakage of bank salaries was not in the spirit of ATI and should not be associated with or linked to the enactment of the Act.
“This is a pure professional misconduct bordering on criminal conduct and should be treated as such by all relevant authorities and members of the public,” he said. n