International legal experts have rated Malawi’s Access to Information (ATI) Bill as one of world’s strongest Right to Information (RTI) legislations.
The ATI bill is yet to be passed into law but an analysis by Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) shows that if passed, the bill would become one of stronger laws in the world, ranking in 15th position on the internationally recognised RTI Rating.
The experts found that the bill has a number of positive features, including a relatively broad scope, strong promotional measures and a good public interest override.
These factors pushed the ATI bill to a higher RTI Rating, scoring a respectable 111 points out of a possible 150, which would make it the fifteenth best national RTI law in the world, and the fifth best in Africa.
This comes at a time when government has refused to table the bill saying that it contains inconsistencies which should be worked on by the cabinet.
CLD also noted that President Peter Mutharika has been demanding that the bill should only apply to information generated after it is adopted, a move the law experts said would limit the bill’s scope of application and usefulness.
“Restricting the right to information to future documents would dramatically undermine the impact of the law,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “Rather than weakening the bill, the priority for the government should now be on getting it passed into law.”
However, the law experts recommended that the proposed law should provide for the establishment of a commissioner for information and that there should be no sanctions if anyone misuses disclosed information.
CLD also recommended that the bill be amended so that people can get information regarding the president and that there should be few exceptions for information regarding personal privacy.