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Parliament makes history, passes Access to Information Bill


Parliament has made history by passing the Access to Information (ATI) Bill.

The bill went through third reading in Parliament Wednesday.

This meant that what now stood in the way of the bill becoming law was President Hakainde Hichilema assenting to it.

Read more: Govt submits Access to Information Bill before Parliament for further scrutiny

Minister of Information and Media, Cornelius Mweetwa, said the decision by the Executive to table the proposed legislation in the House, was a fulfillment of a campaign promise made by President Hichilema prior to the 2021 elections.

Mweetwa said previous regimes had shelved the document after assuming power.

“And while we cannot speak for previous regimes madam Speaker, we can speculate that fears around enacting such legislation includes fear of opening up too much of government procedures, invasion of privacy or indeed exposure of corrupt practices by public officials,” Mweetwa said.

He added that soon after forming government, the New Dawn Administration resurrected the process to enact the law, with enhanced stakeholder consultation and benchmarking on best practices from countries that had enacted the law.

“The government is committed to transparency and accountability as premised among the hallmarks of good governance. And in keeping with the electoral commitment made during the campaigns, we have brought this law to the House just as desired by the people of Zambia,” he said.

Mweetwa said the government was comfortable with the proposed law because the New Dawn administration was a proponent of ensuring the public resources benefitted the citizens.

“The law will compel public officers to give public information to the broadcast audience possible. For example, instead of an officer who is employing staff or procuring goods for a public body only disclosing the information to personal contacts, he or she will be required by law to publicise the information beyond friends and relatives,” Mweetwa explained.

He urged members of parliament to work with the government in sensitizing communities on how to ensure that the law benefitted them in accessing information of public interest.

Contributing to the conversation Minister of Justice, Mulambo Haimbe, said the Bill represented the government’s commitment to Constitutionalism and the rule of law.

He said exemptions such as military sensitive information were justified in the interest of protecting national security and territorial integrity.

Haimbe also said it was key for the country to undertake a benchmarking process for the Bill to ensure that the proposed law carried a posture that would respond to modern day traits of good governance.

Parliamentary committee on Media, Information and Communication Technologies chairperson, Raphael Mabenga, indicated that stakeholders supported the proposed law.

After the debate, the Bill successfully underwent the second reading and committee stages without amendment before being read for the third time.

In the region, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Angola, and Zimbabwe have the ATI law in place.

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