Government says it is making significant strides in the promotion of the right to information and right to access to information in the country.
The Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Nicholas Dausi, said during the commemoration of the International Right to know Day at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.
Dausi said government has made good progress in promoting freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and freedom of the media to publish freely in the country without been questioned.
The Minister explained that Malawi adopted the information regime which has enabled it to fully participate in the commemoration of the day.
“The commemoration of the International Right to know Day started way back in 2002 when advocates of the right to information gathered in Sofia, Bulgaria. Since then, commemorations have continued to be done on yearly basis, particularly in those countries with legislation on Access to Information.” Dausi recalled.
He hoped that the country would continue to commemorate the day on yearly basis from now onwards in line with this principle that Government enacted the Access to Information law (Number 13 of 2017).
Dausi said the enactment of the law on Access to Information would eventually have a very positive impact on the enjoyment of many other rights such as the right to freedom of expression.
“The enactment of the Access to Information Act has not just come accidentally. It has come as an attempt to bring to life the Constitutional provisions on the right to information and right to access to information.” He observed.
Dausi added that with the passage of this new law, Malawians could now exercise their right to access public information to the extent that such information is required for the enjoyment of their right.
“By passing the law on access to information, the Government has now made it possible for many Malawians to begin to exercise their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.” The Minister viewed.
He singled out that the enactment of the Access to Information Act is part of the ongoing reforms in the public sector Government has been championing since 2014.
“These reforms are meant to make Government transparent, accountable and responsive to the needs of the people. Our Government is committed to ensuring that we raise the bar of excellence in so far as the provision of public services is concerned,” he emphasized.
Dausi said government considered the need to empower citizens to demand better services, more accountability and transparency in the workings of government institutions in the quest to fight Corruption.
“The passing of the Access to Information Act empowers the people as rights holders to demand their rightful entitlements,” he noted.
Dausi thanked United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the financial support that they have provided to this activity.
“We thank them for the continued support to all other related activities pertaining to the law on access to information. We anticipate a lot of capacity building initiatives in the near future targeted at oversight institutions, information holders, and the media,” the Minister pointed out.
Commissioner for Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Patrick Semphere said their organization would need material and financial support to ensure that Access to information ACT is implemented in full.
He said MHRC human resource would require capacity building in order to understand better the ACT.
Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Media Information and Communication, Samuel Kawale called upon various institutions to familiarize themselves with Access to Information Act.
He said for the institutions to make to use of it they need to fully understand it and take a leading role in sensitizing the people on its importance.