Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Civil Society Organisations Urge Zambian Government to Enact Access to Information Law Before Upcoming Summit for Democracy

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In a press statement released yesterday, several civil society organizations have issued an urgent appeal for Zambia to enact an access to information law before the upcoming Summit for Democracy. The summit, which will be co-hosted by Zambia in collaboration with the United States of America, Costa Rica, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Republic of Korea, is set to take place in March 2023.

The statement was signed by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), the Panos Institute Southern Africa, and MISA Zambia. These organizations have been advocating for access to information for many years and have noted the recent announcement by the Minister of Information and Media, Hon. Chushi Kasanda, that the Zambian government has approved the roadmap to enact the Access to Information law by June 2023.

In response to this announcement, the organizations have called on the government to expedite the process, saying, “We respectfully call on the government to use the feedback already provided by us and other stakeholders and 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.”

The press statement also highlights the importance of access to information, saying, “Access to information is the oxygen of democracy that helps government to save resources and serve its people better. Access to public information is at the heart of democracy, fostering the observance of human rights and the rule of law. There cannot be true democracy without people’s informed participation, and informed participation cannot take place without citizens having the power of the law to give them the information they need.”

In a letter sent to President Hakainde Hichilema on 20 January 2023, the organizations also noted that all of the other co-hosts of the upcoming Summit for Democracy have access to information laws in place and that the absence of such a law in Zambia “undermines Zambia’s commitment to democracy, transparency, integrity, and anti-corruption.”

The press statement also references Zambia’s obligations under various African treaties, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which recognizes the right of every individual to access public information. The statement says, “In spite of being party to these treaties, the Government of the Republic of Zambia has not adopted an Access to Information legislation to give effect to these treaties.”

The organizations also mention the recent 42nd session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held at the United Nations in Geneva, where Zambia received 17 recommendations relating to the protection of civic space, including the adoption of an access to information law. In response to a request from President Hichilema, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission also conducted a governance diagnostic assessment and in its report released on December 28, 2022, the IMF noted, “The most significant governance weaknesses are demonstrated in the limited transparency and absence of an effective access to information framework…”

In conclusion, the press statement says, “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 Second Summit for Democracy. We believe that access to information is critical to fostering democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and it is time for the government to take this crucial step towards fulfilling its obligations and commitments.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Access to Information should come after the LAZ-style self-regulation of the Media. Not before, given such loose canons as Emmanuel Mwamba. Unethical journalism has become ubiquitous in Zambia – sadly.

  2. UPND govt get someone who can competently respond to such matters with answers at their finger tips not this school leaver Chushi Kasanda….you need someone who can face the media not hiding behind press statements written by her dull Media Director cadre.

  3. The Saint above, those are comments made by men with small katundu. Those whltes wherever you are are making you weak. Only big strong men appreciate kasandas figure. This woman is very attractive. The only problem is when she opens her mouth. She is my good friend and I even knew her before I married my Regina. All I will say is that she is one of my best. Most of you here suffer from premature ejaculation. You can’t manage her.

    • Please ignore this UK based Impostor it has no relation whatsoever with anyone…it just wants interaction on here. Life can be lonely in UK for dull chaps!!

    • You call me imposter or whatever it is you refer to me as these days. Then you claim you do not respond to the same imposters, yet here you are commenting on my posts. Just fark off!! You imbecile

  4. I hope these CSOs know all the clauses of the bill which will be presented to parliament. Otherwise, the first correct demand of the CSOs should not have been ‘passing’ the law, but making the draft known to the public before it goes to parliament. If all the clauses are agreeable, then the CSOs would be entitled to press for its passing.

    For now, don’t ask for what you don’t know!

  5. Referendum is key for people to have a say, participate and decide on important matters affecting majority people. This is health for our country Zambia as a growing democracy.

  6. While ATI Bill is important, currently the Zambian Observer blocks the posting of comments from the public on articles it publishes for public consumption. Why should the Zambian Observer post articles for the public consumption but then blocks comments from the public. Who will hold the Zambian Observer accountable for its conduct. The public will lose interest in reading the Zambian Observer articles if the provision for sending comments is being blocked….

  7. Diasporan, I had to use Lusaka Times to raise a principal issue on ATI as it relates to various media outlets conduct. I was not able to directly comment to Zambian Observer as it blocks comments from people whose opinion it decides to suppress.. The annoying thing is that this Zambian observer publishes articles which is accessible to the public but blocks the comments of the public audience on the published articles. This should also be seen as violation of the ATI. Whenever this ATI Bill will be launched, this conduct of the Zambian Observer should face severe sanctions.

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