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Malawi: Access to Information Policy Essential for Limitless Public Information
Source: SADC Contribution - Malawi
Source Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Focus: Citizen Engagement
Country: Malawi
Created: Aug 27, 2014

He further said most of the information which the public requires to access in order to participate effectively in national development is held by government and other public bodies and that some information is also held by private and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that deal with government or perform public functions.
“The principle behind the right of access to information is that public bodies are elected by the people and sustained by taxpayers’ funds, so the public should have the right to know how that power is being used and how public resources are being utilized or spent,” Samute explained.
Samute, however, said due to prevailing weak systems in the management of public information and obligations to publish such information, there is a perception that public officials willfully withhold information that is supposed to be availed to the public hence the approval of the policy by Cabinet to allow citizens exercise their right of access to public information.
He then said government in most cases is forced to react, refute and clarify some facts or put the record straight when there is misreporting or perceived distortion of facts in the media, when all this could have been avoided if the correct information was provided to the public proactively.
According to Samute, successful implementation of the policy relies on the ability of public institutions to proactively disclose their programmes and policies to the public.
Secretary for Information, Tourism and Culture, Chimwemwe Banda, said government has three quarters of the information to be shared to the public.
“We want to have systematic way of keeping and sharing information. There should also be institutions coordination, a department should not give out information that is different from the other department if they are coming from one institution,” said Banda.
She also said government institution should have Informational Officers to be giving information transparently.
“Different ministries should have Informational Officers from Ministry of Information, Tourism and Culture who are practicing journalists to be giving the information to the public,” she said.
She also said ministries should allocate resources for training and storage of information among other things to make sure that people dealing with the information are well trained and the information is well kept.
The National Access to Information Policy was adopted by Cabinet on 27 January 2014 and the orientation meeting is part of the awareness on the policy.

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