The enactment of the ATI law will make government open and inclusive – MISA Zambia
SPEECH BY MISA ZAMBIA CHAPTER CHAIRPERSON
MS HELLEN MWALE
AT THE LAUNCH OF THE GOLDEN KEY AND PADLOCK AWARDS
28TH SEPTEMBER 2018
THE GUEST OF HONOUR
MISA ZAMBIA BOARD MEMBERS HERE PRESENT
THE NATIONAL DIRECTOR – MISA ZAMBIA
GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS SURVEYED
EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS FROM THE CIVIL SOCIETY
MEMBERS OF THE PRESS
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
I also join my national director, Mr Austin Kayanda to welcome you all to the launch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia – Golden Key and Padlock awards.
The Golden Key and Padlock Awards arise from a survey we conduct annually of target public institutions to ascertain their responsiveness to demands for information from the public institutions by ordinary citizens.
The guest of honour, ladies and gentlemen, as we shall note in the report for this particular year which will be presented shortly, public institutions are not bound by any legislation to give information to the public on demand. What is mainly employed is discretion and goodwill by the officers in these institutions.
Based on this finding, MISA Zambia is concerned because most of these institutions surveyed conduct business on behalf of the public who fund them through tax and are created to serve the public or citizens of Zambia.
It is also clear from the research that the lack of sufficient legislation on access to information (ATI) is playing a big role in contributing to this situation. Without an ATI law, officers in state or public institutions are not clear on whether they need to provide information to the ordinary citizens. The usual question that the researchers encounter and we presume is the same for the citizens is: “Which institution are you representing and what will you use the information for?”
Rarely do 50 percent of these institutions that are surveyed provide the requested information. Though over the years, a notable change of adoption of online platforms by the state institutions has improved but the information is mainly based on what the institution desires to publish. Most if not all have websites, Facebook accounts and or Twitter accounts although the level of information varies in terms of relevance and currency.
Based on this research, it goes without saying that the enactment of the ATI bill will really go along way in addressing this challenge and it should be done immediately.
The ATI bill contains articles that address the nature of information that can be obtained by the public while it sets limits in regard to the nature of information that could be released to the public on demand and this includes personal information and that on national security and international relations among others.
Guest of honour, ladies and gentlemen,
It is for this reason that MISA Zambia has over the past years been lobbying government and policy makers through a series of campaigns and meetings to demand the enactment of the ATI bill.
We have further been compelled to make this call because of factors on the ground that indicate that the lack of such a law in Zambia has to a larger extent contributed to the existing levels of secrecy in government and public institutions thereby making it difficult for an ordinary citizen to access information from such institutions.
It is against this background that MISA Zambia and other like-minded organisations are advocating for the enactment of the ATI legislation that will place an obligation on the public institutions to give information to the citizens on request.
We are saddened that while Zambia is seen as a beacon of peace and growing democracy, it seems unwilling to put in place the full mechanisms that facilitate full citizen participation and access to the government they elect including institutions established to provide them services.
Therefore, as I conclude my short speech, allow me to restate the need for Zambia to enact the ATI bill and make government open, accessible and inclusive as envisioned in the seventh development plan (7NDP). The 7NDP seeks to attain development that leaves no one behind but can only be attained if citizens are well informed and fully participation in the governance and development of their country.
Allow me guest of honour, ladies and gentlemen to commend the public/state institutions that continue to strive to make information available to ordinary citizens without this law for their commitment to serving the Zambian people even though the policy on ATI is murky.
I also wish to urge those that have not done well to learn from fellow state institutions that have led the way in information provision that it is possible to provide information to the public and this is good for them and the citizens.
I thank you for listening.
About MISA Zambia
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia was founded in 1996. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.