Monday, 7 April 2008

Malawi discusses legislation on access to state information

In an article in Nyasa Times ("Access to information: who benefits?") Sangwani Mwafulirwa (Advocacy Officer, National Media Institute of Southern Africa) writes at length bout Malawi's Access to Information Bill. According to this article, many people people think of a Bill that has been drafted for the benefit of journalists, so that they should easily get hold of information. In fact, it is intended to benefit all citizens. The 1994 Constitution provided a right to access to information by everyone. However, enjoyment of this right has not been fully realised. Section 37 states:
“Subject to an Act of Parliament, every person shall have the right to access all information held by the state or any of its organs at any level of government in so far as such information is required for the exercise of his rights.”
This includes all records held by a public body, regardless of how the information is stored, its sources, when it was produced or whether it is classified -- a broad category that is capable of embracing intellectual property that is protected by confidentiality. The article details the provisions of the proposed legislation and the various checks and balances it seeks to implement.

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