The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has shared a broad roadmap that the commission has put in place to ensure that the Access to Information (ATI) law is implemented.
President Peter Mutharika assented the ATI bill into law last month but the duty to ensure it is implemented lies with MHRC.
In a statement released by the commission and signed by its chairperson Justin Dzonzi, MHRC says it has reviewed the act and expresses commitment and ability to play its designated role and mandate as provided in the act.
According to the statement, the ATI Act has provided for four main categories of key players in its implementation namely information seekers (Malawians), information holders, overseer (MHRC) and administrator (Ministry responsible for information).
MHRC’s roadmap towards the implementation of the law will first involve holding tripartite meetings with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Information and Civic Education to share notes and agree on the working modalities among these three institutions.
The commission will then set up and host a multi-sectoral committee on ATI with clear terms of reference and develop a comprehensive implementation strategy to address areas such public sensitization drive, resource mobilization and stakeholder engagement.
Based on the outcomes of the first initiatives, the commission will develop and implement an awareness strategy on the act and analyse the act and identify roles which information holders and seekers ought to put in place.
MHRC will also develop public information manuals for use by information holders and these include forms for applying for and providing information and determine the means by which members of the general public can assess such information.
The commission will design a strategy for obtaining regular reports from information holders on their provision or refusal to provide information, develop a strategy to monitor and track progress on the implementation of the act, and establish effective mechanisms for dealing with reviews under the act.
“The commission is aware that Malawians have waited for a long time for the enactment of this bill. The commission is further cognizant of the fact that success in the implementation of the Act hinges on effective and thorough ground work to be undertaken with a broad cross section of the stakeholders in government and among non-stake actors. Together, we will accomplish the ideals for which this law has been enacted,” says the commission in the statement.
On the purpose and objects of the act, MHRC notes that the law will provide for the right of access to information in the custody of public bodies and relevant private bodies.
“The Act will also promote routine and systematic information disclosures by information holders, to provide for the protection of persons who release information of public interest and to facilitate civic education on the right to access to information,” adds the statement.
Meanwhile the organisation has said that the enactment of the Access of Information Bill by Parliament and the subsequent assent of the same by Mutharika into a law will help to promote principles of transparency and accountability, both of which are catalysts for good governance and development.