BY DRAXON MALOYA.
Journalists in the country have been told openly to wait a little bit longer before the long awaited Access to Information (ATI) law which was already ascended to by the state president comes into full operation.
The Information and Civic Education Minister Mark Botomani told a mob of journalists in Chitipa District on Friday that the legal provision aimed at providing total freedom to the media practitioners will take a little more time to be implemented considering a number of factors.
Botomani said, despite government doing all it can to make sure that the media independence thrives in the country, there are some institutions like the security agencies where the legal document should give appropriate standards of media interaction.
The legal document needs to be properly scrutinised before it is taken back to parliament for a final assessment, there are some areas which needs proper scrutiny, one cannot just go to the Malawi Defence Force and expect to be given information that can compromise with security matters.
“For your own information, in South Africa it took almost ten years for their ATI to be fully enacted and thrown into operation, so the document is still being scrutinised by some legal minds on the ground who are making sure that there should be no loopholes in the document, but as government is very committed to operationalize the ATI,” Botomani said
An audio clip posted on Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi social media platform, its chairperson, Teresa Ndanga said the institution is taking a leading role and will always be in the forefront monitoring and protecting the media independence.
“Misa Malawi is taking a leading role and will be in the forefront protecting the media and we shall always monitor and check that government is not limiting all those spaces that provides for the free press in the country,” Ndanga said
And as one way of showing commitment to ensure that ATI shall be fully respected, in December 2019 officers in the Malawi Police Service were sensitized on the legal provision and subsequently instituted Malawi Police Service at Access to Information and Sector Training at its college in Zomba.
A fortnight ago the police arrested two journalists at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) when they were covering the arrival into the country of the European Union (EU) election Observer Mission and they were charged using an outdated legal provision before they were released.
In a related development, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has withdrawn the letter the regulatory body wrote summoning Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) for a hearing.
In a twist of events, Macra says it is withdrawing the summon because it has gathered new information which need further investigations.
However, our sources were reliably informed the reporter that Macra was reprimanded for repriminding MBC publicly soon after local dailies published the story.