Members of Parliament on Friday referred the Access to Information (ATI) bill to the Legal Affairs and Media and Communications committees of Parliament for further scrutiny.
The decision was arrived at after opposition political parties objected several provisions in the adulterated bill saying they run counter to the original spirit of the legislation.
Spokesperson for the People’s Party on the bill Agness Nyalonje said the bill is good for the country since it will ensure that there are checks and balances.
She however claimed that the legislation in its current state is not giving the general public access to information.
On his part, Malawi Congress Party Member of Parliament for Lilongwe East Ezekiel Ching’oma who spoke on behalf of the party said government was wrong to include in the bill a clause which blocks Malawians from accessing information on events that happened before the bill became law.
“This defeats the whole purpose of the bill,” said the legislator. “People should get access to information from time immemorial otherwise this bill is useless, what is the government hiding.” Ching’oma added that Malawians have the right to know how their government has been operating arguing that it is the only way they can hold office holders accountable.
Following the input from the opposition parties, Leader of the House George Chaponda requested that the bill should be referred to the Legal Affairs and Media and Communications committees of the National Assembly.
For a long time Misa Malawi and civil society organisations in the country have been lobbying members of Parliament not to pass the ATI saying the Peter Mutharika administration has adulterated the legislation.