President Edgar Lungu’s announcement that he is considering holding back the Access to Information Bill from tabling in Parliament because of what he views as unethical treatment of secret government information by the media is most concerning. Significant about the president’s statement is that he seems to believe that enacting the ATI is a presidential favour to citizens which it is absolutely not.
Access to information is a right in a democracy
Access to information is a right in a democracy. President Lungu would be well advised not to quickly fall into the trap almost all his predecessors did, of believing that the holder of the presidential office is king among us. While our current constitution does confer on the holder of the presidential office inordinate power, even under it he is not a monarch. The president serves at the pleasure of the people of Zambia and that he happens to be personally unhappy does not give him authority to delay democratic progress. There certainly exists enough authority spread among the various offices of government to deal with any person who unlawfully reveals secret government information.
Simply stated, the answer to a crime, if a crime has been committed, is not for the president to threaten the whole country with abuse of his own power. The people of Zambia want the ATI, could we please have it tabled in parliament now that we all know all it needs is for the President to say – “take it there.
By Laura Miti