Parliamentary Media Committee chairperson Dossi calls for penalties for not complying with Access to Information Act

* We believe that access to information is a human right and it is fundamental

* But if institutions are deliberately not sharing information, then we have a big problem

By Patience Longwe, MANA

Access to public information saying is a fundamental human right of the citizenry and the public institutions that are not complying with Access to Information (ATI) Act indicate a clear picture of incompetency and such institutions need to be punished.


This was said by UTM legislator for Chikwawa West Constituency, Susan Dossi, in her capacity as chairperson for Parliamentary Media Committee after observing that several public institutions are failing to comply with the ATI Act

Speaking on Wednesday in Parliament, Dossi said: “We believe that access to information is a human right and it is fundamental but if institutions are deliberately not sharing information, then we have a big problem.

“As public institutions, they receive money from the government and they need to provide information on how they have used it,” she said.

Minister Kunkuyu

Responding to the recommendation made by the Media Committee, Minister of Information & Digitization, Moses Kunkuyu said some public institutions are failing to comply with some provisions within ATI Act due to failure to interpret the laws that guide its implementation.

Kunkuyu further said the recommendation given by the Parliamentary Committee to give penalties to institutions failing to abide by the law is not good, saying institutions should rather be given time to synchronize with the provisions within the law.

“There are indeed some institutions that are taking long to give out information when the public needs it,” he confessed. “Of course, there are some restrictions within the law itself in what sort of information to be given out but there are reports that some institutions are withholding information that should be available as empowered by law.

“We should not only look into the issue of penalties for those not giving the information timely only but there are also some elements that have necessitated that call and one of them is that there are other laws that were enacted after ATI and those laws are providing length period of time at which information can be accessed, and this is contradicting some provisions of this law,” he said.


Meanwhile, the Media Committee has urged government institutions to start abiding by the provisions within ATI, saying this is one of the ways of curbing corruption in the country.

This development comes after the police seized mobile phones and laptops belonging to Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalists who are being suspected of running a fake MBC Facebook page.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter has since condemned that actions of the state agency as a number of MBC journalists are being investigated for alleged offenses committed under the Electronic Transactions & Cybersecurity Act following a complaint by MBC management.

In a statement released yesterday MISA Malawi chairperson, Golden Matonga, said they engaged MBC management on the matter, which said “the police are conducting the investigation independently and the management has not provided any names of journalists to be subjected to the investigation”.

Golden Matonga

“MISA Malawi is concerned because the development raises a number of serious questions [as the] police have confiscated mobile phones and laptops from a number of MBC journalists across the country.

“The question is; how are these journalists being identified? What measures have been put in place to ensure that the identity of the sources of these journalists is protected?

“Correspondence between journalists and their sources is privileged information under Section 32(c) of the ATI Act. What about private and confidential personal information of these journalists? How safe is their private information that is on the mobile phones and laptops that the police have confiscated?

“While Malawi Police Service has every right to use lawful means to investigate any matter and MBC has a right to ensure its corporate identity is not abused, we are concerned with how the journalists in question have been identified as possible culprits.

“We are also concerned with the potential victimisation of innocent journalists. Without claiming immunity, the investigative process should be conducted sincerely and without abusing or torturing employees.

We emphasize that we do not condone any criminal activities involving journalists — however, during investigations, it is crucial for the police to respect the right to privacy and confidentiality of journalists and sources.

“If innocent, the affected journalists would have suffered mental torture, have their privacy violated and their sources and contacts compromised.”

MISA Malawi thus called upon MBC management and Malawi Police Service “to carry out the investigations without any malice, prejudice or political inclinations”.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express