MPs Reject Motion to Curtail ATI Debate

Parliament this afternoon rejected a motion to suspend the committee stage of the Access to Information Bill to Friday.

The motion was rejected through individual MPs’ votes cast through an open ballot. Those against the motion narrowly won with 66 votes against 65.

Debate on the bill continued in the house in the afternoon after the opposition insisted on the same, saying as per standing orders it had to continue having been stopped at the same stage on Monday.

Several amendments have been made to the bill following recommendations by the media and legal committees of the house.

The earlier version was rejected because, the opposition argued, it had been altered in favour of the government.

The Access to Information (ATI) Bill has been a critical topic of discussion and debate for over twelve years.

It has passed through the regimes of late President Bingu wa Mutharika and ex- president Joyce Banda, but up to date it has not been passed into law.

On December 13 the bill brought chaos in the August house as debate was abruptly curtailed at committee stage, shelving the bill to later unspecified date only to return on Tuesday.

Earlier, chairperson for the Media Institute for Southern Africa ( MISA-Malawi) Thom Khanje described the developments as worrisome.

He stated the bill is a necessity for Malawi’s media to excel in providing accurate information to Malawians as well as enhance access to information among the general population.

On the other hand, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Maxwell Tcholera, said the committee is disappointed with government’s delays to pass the bill.

The ATI was presented in parliament by Minister of Information and Communications Technology Reverend Malison Ndau after it was earlier referred back to the committees of media and legal affairs for review.

The bill seeks to establish a law that would empower Malawians to easily access information held in public offices as a way of enhancing democracy and accountability. 

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