YAS, Oxfam, drill journalists on the ATI in Mzuzu

By Richard Kayenda – Africa brief.

In a bid to ensure that the Access to Information (ATI) Act is well known and fully enjoyed by Malawians, Youth and Society (YAS) in collaboration with Oxfam Misa Malawi and Development Communications Trust (DCT) on Friday drilled journalists on the importance of the law to Malawians.

The training which was held under the theme: “Influencing effective implementation and enforcement of regulatory framework that guarantees right to information project”, took place at Grand Palace in Mzuzu, and it tackled freedom of expression as a package enshrined in the Republican Constitution of Malawi.

Speaking after the training, Program Coordinator for Human Rights and Civil Society Strengthening at YAS, Mwandida Theu, said the objective of the training was to make Malawians fully aware of the ATI Act and the freedom of expression.

“We are implementing a project on right to information. The whole essence is to make sure people are aware of the ATI Act and then freedom of expression and also to see the implementation of the ATI Act.

“So basically, we are aware that the Minister gazetted the ATI Act but then we are remaining with the implementation part of it. So, the project is making sure that we see the implementation part of the act; that’s why we have the project. But also I should say that today we are meeting the media in Mzuzu.

“The whole essence was to make sure that people grasp the concept of the ATI Act and also freedom of expression; because we are aware that not everyone is familiar with the two concepts. Because even if we talk of implementation part of it, firstly people should be aware of the act and then we can trickle down to local people. So, that’s why we had the meeting,” Theu explained.

While concurring with Theu, Gender and Women’s Rights Principal Officer at Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Grace Mtawali, said as a human rights watchdog, the commission works with the government in making sure that ATI Act which is human right is enforced.

Mtawali said: “As a human rights commission, we are the custodian or we are supposed to oversee the enforcement of the Access to Information Act. So, so far, we have been able to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information to ensure that the regulations are coming into force which they did in January, 2021.”

Mtawali further hinted that in the near future, the Commission will have a specific unit that will be able to handle issues to do with ATI Act for its smooth operationalisation and reception by Malawians.

The program which is being implemented with funding from European Union (EU), is intended to take place in the districts of Chitipa, Rumphi, Likoma, Kasungu and Dowa.

However, a similar training is expected to take place in the Southern and Central regions of Malawi to target other districts in those areas.

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