A consortium of Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) has told government that they had more than enough consultations on the Access to Information Law (ATI).
This follows an announcement made by Information and Media Minister Chushi Kasanda on Wednesday that the ATI may become law in June as government makes a decision on its enactment.
Read more: Access to Information bill may become law in June, as govt decides on roadmap, others
Cabinet made a decision on the roadmap leading to the enactment of the ATI bill by June, 2023.
In response, a consortium of CSOs comprising of MISA Zambia, Panos Institute of Southern Africa, Free Press Initiative, Cyber Security Initiative Foundation, Bloggers of Zambia and Africa Freedom of Information Center said they are not against consultations but had more than enough of it.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we are not against consultations, as such a process allows all citizens and stakeholders to own the law.
“However, we are of the view that more than enough consultations on ATI have been done from the 1990s until now,” Panos Institute of Southern Africa Executive Director Vusumuzi Sifile said in statement issued on Saturday.
Sifile called on government to use the feedback already provided by various stakeholders to urgently expedite the enactment of the ATI during the first quarter of 2023 as initially indicated.
“We urge the government to enact the ATI law before the Second Summit for Democracy, which Zambia will be co-hosting with the United States of America, Costa Rica, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea in March 2023,” he said.
Sifile said the CSOs were concerned that seven years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Framework in 2015, Zambia was still lagging.
He specifically mentioned goal 16.10 of the SDG, which urges member states to, ‘Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements’ are implemented, stating that Zambia was lagging on this particular target.
Sifile indicated that access to information was the oxygen of democracy that would help government to save resources and its people better.
He pointed out that access to public information was at the heart of democracy, fostering the observance of human rights and the rule of law.
“Considering the great work, and resources, already invested into ATI development and advocacy since the 1990s, and the commendable progress of the last few months, we appeal to the government of Zambia to urgently fast-track the enactment of the ATI bill ahead of the Summit for Democracy.
“There is no need for further consultations,” Sifile said.
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