Malawi has become the 22nd country in Africa to adopt an access to information law after President Peter Mutharika signed the Access to Information (ATI) Bill into law in March 2017.
The ATI Law will allow Malawians to freely access information from the government and other public bodies. Both State House and parliament passed the Access to Information (ATI) Bill to allow public access to government records before President Mutharika assented it.
The bill was passed in December 2016 by the country’s parliament and was signed into law by President Mutharika on February 15, 2017 after much pressure from the media, civil society groups and the opposition.
According to Malawi24 news portal, the ATI law ends over 12 years of advocacy and agitation by media outlets and other stakeholders for its enactment.
The ATI Law will give Malawians access to information from government offices without hassles.
Editorial Director of Nyasa Times, Thom Twee Chiumia said “We at Nyasa Times commend President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika for assenting to the access to information law as it now heralds a new dawn of transparency and accountability within government.”
“With this legislation in place, Malawians will now be able to demand any type of information thereby exercising rights which they could not enjoy in the absence of the enabling law,” Media Institute of Malawi said.
ATI Law allows the public to request for information from government, and obligates public servants to make sure they provide that information, or risk fines or jail terms.
If the government refuses to grant the information, or hides some of the information, the public can report the matter to the Malawi Human Rights Commission for review and enforcement orders.
The opposition defeated government after two division roll calls to pass the bill in parliament and it had to wait for President Mutharika’s nod.
Now all government information will be up for grabs to anyone interested, unless the State “proves” that the information has to remain classified or that it relates to national security or military strategy.