NGOs team up on ATI implementation

Three Non-Governmental Organisations have teamed up to train stakeholders including the media on how best to implement the Access to Information (ATI) Act amid concerns that people in the country are still facing challenges to access information of their wish from relevant authorities.

Youth and society (YAS), the Development Communication Trust (DCT) and Oxfam Malawi are implementing a three-year project called ‘influencing effective implementation and enforcement of regulatory framework that guarantees right to information,’ which will be run in ten districts of the country.

On Tuesday, the organizations held a day-long media orientation meeting on the ATI Act in Blantyre.

Programs manager for Development Communication Trust (DCT), Bettie Chumbu observed that the media is a catalyst for effective implementation of the act as it attracts a large audience.

She, however, said it is sad to note that since the act was gazetted in September last year, there are still reports of so many challenges on how the general populace can access information of their wish from relevant authorities.

“I feel that the media is a very important sector in facilitating the effective awareness of the act, hence the need to capacitate the sector.

“However, there are so many hiccups in as far as accessing information is concerned. This shows that most of the people do not know what actually the act is all about perhaps due to poor advocacy strategies, illiteracy and Information gaps,” said Chumbu.

The project which is being funded by the European Union (EU), will see the act being translated into other local languages such as Chichewa and Tumbuka for better understanding.

Speaking in a separate interview, the deputy director for civil and political rights for Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Chance Kawolokesya, said self-disclosure of the ATI for the general public was very important for easy access of information.

“This will lay bare suspicions of corruption, fraud and other misconceptions. Therefore, it is necessary to appoint the information officers so that the general public can easily access information through this office,” he said.

Misa Malawi chapter, a grouping of local media practitioners in the country, championed the enactment of the ATI Act 17 years ago before the government gazzeted it in September 2020.