JOINT MEDIA AND ADVOCACY STATEMENT
THE CATHOLIC COMMISSION FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE (CCJP) AND
THE RESEARCH AND SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF MALAWI
ON THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE ACCESS TO INFORMATION BILL
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) which is a social justice and advocacy arm; and the Research and Social Commission which is the communication arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, an umbrella body of the Catholic Bishops in Malawi, have noted with concern the current updates provided by the Malawi Government on the status of Access to Information Bill (ATI). So far, the updates provided by the Leader of Government Business, Honorable Francis Kasaira and Minister of Information, Honorable Jappie Mhango, whilst they have more details; lack precision, timeliness and are far from bringing about the much needed enabling legal framework of access to information highly needed by Malawian citizenry, CSOs and the media. We, therefore, kindly request government and especially cabinet to expedite ‘’the VERY advanced stages’’ of the ATI Bill so that this bill is soon enacted into law. In any case, we are convinced as per the DPP February, 2014 Manifesto commitment made on chapter 30, page 57 and paragraph 4 that the DPP led government is already committed to seeing this bill legislated and in operation.
2.0. OUR APPRECIATION
We, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Research and Social Communication Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, in this discourse for the enactment of the Access to Information Bill appreciate the following:
- That government and other relevant stakeholders that value this relevant bill have already shown high levels of commitment and effort to bring this bill into existence
- That most political parties showed commitment to this bill by highlighting it as a priority in their 2014 manifestos
- That presently Access to Information Bill continues to dominate national discourse further highlights the importance Malawians accord this bill.
3.0. OUR CONCERNS
We, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Research and Social Communication Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, while we appreciate the clarification made by Government of Malawi through a media statement released on Friday, 6th November, 2015 by the Minister of Information, would like to raise the following concerns:
- The ATI Bill has been outstanding spanning four political regimes from Dr. Bakili Muluzi’s Administration (1994-2004) and later Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration (2004-2012), Dr.Joyce Banda’s administration (2012-2014) and the current Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika’s administration. The length of time that the bill has taken before enactment is raising suspicions as to the lack of sustained political will to expedite the process by all regimes.
- We note that while Government indicates that the bill is at an advanced stage, it, however, does not provide an indicative time frame that the bill has to go through before being presented in Parliament. Considering the serious delayed and sluggish history of the bill, the recent update from Government is wanting as it is devoid of specific time frames.
- As noted above in this statement, the DPP manifesto outlined the ATI Bill as a priority. On the contrary though, it is disheartening that 5 parliamentary sessions have gone by without tabling the bill; instead what the nation gets are mere assurances that the bill will be tabled. We are therefore worried that this might be a continuation of the established trend whereby administrations come and go without enacting the ATI when they promised so during their campaigns.
4.0. OUR APPEAL
We, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Research and Social Communication Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, would like to make the following appeal to the following key stakeholders:
- The President and Cabinet: To ensure that the process gets political backing and support at all levels and that cabinet prioritizes the bill in their most immediate meetings.
- The Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Information: We are imploring them to expedite the process that will lead to the passing of the bill in Parliament.
- CSOs, the Media and General Public: To be vigilant, proactive and intrusive and to exercise active citizenship to ensure that our leaders live by the promise to pass the bill.
We, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Research and Social Communication Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, aware of the varying opinions, frustrations, fears among different interested stakeholders call upon Malawi Government to act with speed and honesty to ensure that the ATI bill is tabled before Parliament. Noting the relevance and the critical significance of the ATI, We, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Research and Social Communication Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi are releasing this advocacy media statement to contribute to the already existing efforts from other interested stakeholders for an expedited enactment of the ATI Bill. Since Malawi government joined the open government initiative, it is only prudent and logical that this ATI is in place to domesticate this global initiative. The legal enabling environment therefore is very key.
Carsterns Mulume, Director for Social Development Directorate
Chris Chisoni, National Secretary for Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
Fr. Andrew Kaufa, National Secretary for Research and Social Communication Commission