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Access to information bill passed in Malawi

The passing of the bill is a huge step in the 12-year long process in which various stakeholders, led by MISA Malawi, campaigned for legislation on access to information.

IDS Knowledge Services/Flickr/Creative Commons License http://bit.ly/1e8oZvb

This statement was originally published on misa.org on 16 December 2016.

MISA Malawi applauds the National Assembly for passing the much-awaited Access to Information (ATI) Bill on Wednesday, December 14, 2016.

We have confidence that President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika will assent to the bill and live up to his election campaign promise that the ATI Bill would be enacted once he is elected into office.

The passing of the bill is a huge step in the 12-year long process in which various stakeholders, led by MISA Malawi, campaigned for legislation on access to information.

We commend Parliament for excellently and successfully doing its part of the process. In particular, we hail Members of Parliament for adopting recommendations made by the parliamentary committees on Media and Communications and Legal Affairs when they were entrusted with the responsibility of reviewing the draft bill as gazetted by the government in February this year.

In their report following the review process, the parliamentary committees – among other things, proposed the re-introduction of an independent oversight body to monitor and oversee implementation of the ATI Legislation. They also restored provisions to protect whistle blowers and safeguard the legislation against laws that limit or restrict access, among others.

The provisions were part of the original ATI as drafted by experts and submitted to the government in December 2014 following thorough nation-wide consultations but were removed by the government prior to the gazetting of the bill in February 2016.

Despite protests from various stakeholders, including MISA Malawi, against the retrogressive changes made in the bill, the government went ahead to table the adulterated bill in Parliament in August this year. Fortunately, the legislators referred the bill to the Media and Communications and Legal Affairs Committees of the House for further review and consultations.

MISA Malawi is now confident to state that the Access to Information law as passed by Parliament this week is in line with the wishes of many Malawians as reflected in the original draft which followed nation-wide consultations over a 12 year period.

Thom Khanje
Chairperson
MISA Malawi

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