After 12 Yrs Of Waiting In Vain, Mutharika Signs ATI Bill Into Law

President Peter Mutharika has finally assented the much awaited Access to Information bill into law allowing Malawians to freely access information from the government and other public bodies.

Both State House and parliament confirmed the bill opening up public access to government record is now law following President Mutharika’s nod.

National Assembly spokesperson Leonard Mengezi said the Mutharika’s signature on the bill means the ATI is now law.

He has assented to it after much pressure from the media, civil society groups and the opposition.

The government initially brought what the media and civil society groups described as a diluted bill after much of the contents were what they called doctored, adultered and butchered.

However, the opposition back benchers took the government by surprise when they made the changes and passed it.

Malawi’s flagship online publication Nyasa Times has said it welcomes the assent into law of the Access to Information bill.

Nyasa Times commends 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,” Editorial Director of Nyasa Times Thom Twee Chiumia said.

Media watchdog Misa-Malawi chairperson Thom Khanje said the assenting of the law 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.

Information Bill allows the public to seek for any information from government, and obligates public servants to make sure they provide that information, or risk hefty fines or jail terms.

If the government refuses to grant the information, or hides some of the information, then 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 relates to national security includes that on military strategy.

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