Malawi’s ATI bill drafted by MISA Malawi, which was released in November 2015 if passed would rank 15th position on the RTI rating.
An Analysis of the Bill released by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) shows that the bill has a number of positive features, including a relatively broad scope, strong promotional measures and a good public interest override.
The bill passage however, has been delayed due to President Peter Mutharika’s particular interests. He cites that Access to Information (ATI) legislation should not cover existing government information, saying the bill should only apply prospectively.
Mutharika also faulted the bill for its clause that says, “No future parliament should repeal the Access to Information law” emphasizing that Parliament is sovereign and has powers to repeal any law.
According to the Nyasa Times Newspaper, Mutharika revealed that some of the International Development Institutions are urging the passing of the bill as a conditionality for donor aid. Underlining that other countries without this Bill were receiving budgetary support.
“Let me repeat that we are not going to pass the Bill to appease anyone. We will make this Bill into Law because I believe it is good for the country; and because it is good for access to information to be legally protected and regulated,” he said.
The Nyasa Times in December 2015, reported that the European Union was threatening to withhold aid unless a bill was passed.
In regard to the Bill, Some of CLD’s key recommendations include:
- Sanctions for misuse of information that has been disclosed should be removed.
- The Bill should overrule Malawi’s Official Secrets Act to the extent of any conflict.
- Exceptions for personal privacy and Cabinet records should be significantly narrowed in scope.
- Malawi should commit to dedicating additional resources for the oversight body.
- The law should make it clear that it applies to the office of the President.