Lilongwe, September 29, Mana: Government has said it would make sure that access to information among Malawians should reality.
Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako made the remarks Wednesday at Sunbird Livingstonia in Salima when the country joined the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s International Day for Universal Access to Information which falls on September 28 annually.
He said government should ensure that every Malawian fully enjoys their right to access public information.
“Access to information will not only benefit Malawians in the realization of their rights, but will empower people to make decisions from an informed point of view. We are reflecting on Malawian’s right to access public information is what we need as a country,” Kazako pointed out.
He said there was need to keep sharing ideas that could ensure that people are fully enjoying the fruits that come with acquiring knowledge from access to information.
The Minister said government took a bold step in making access to information a reality when it appointed September 30, 2020 as commencement date for Access to Information Act.
Kazako said by having a fully operational Access to Information Act, the country has a great opportunity to solidify its democracy.
“As a Country, we embarked on this journey in 1995 with the adoption of our Constitution. Section 37 of the Constitution provides for Access to Information held by the State and its Organs as a right for every citizen,” he added.
The Minister said since 1995, little progress was made in making this Constitutional Provision a reality until in 2013 when a National Access to Information Policy was adopted by government, and later the ATI Law was enacted in 2017.
“We are always ready to engage any individual and listen to views, suggestions and proposals on how best we can make access to information a fully functional right for every Malawian,” Kazako stated.
He said there was a daunting task of ensuring that all public Institutions are fully aware of what was expected of them; and most importantly that people are enlightened and empowered to demand their right to access public information.
Kazako disclosed that government would be publishing names and contacts for all Information Officers, and where a public institution has not designated an Information Officer, the head of that public institution would be listed as an Information Officer as stipulated by Law.
The Minister said the conference was focusing on Digital Rights as a critical factor in facilitating Access to Information especially in the digital space.
He said government would not allow that the majority of poor people continue being sidelined in accessing various social services including internet connectivity.
Kazako expressed gratitude to Oxfam for organizing this important conference and European Union (EU) for providing financial resources for the gathering.
Oxfam Malawi Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa said the conference would provide a platform for stakeholders to participate in policy discussion on access to information and the digital rights environment in the country.
She said the meeting seeks to promote strategic dialogue and accountability of stakeholders on the realization of the right to information as provided for under section 37 of the country’s constitution, Access to Information Act of Malawi, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The function organized by Oxfam and its partners Development Communication Trust (DCT) and Youth and Society (YAS) on commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).