The introduction of the Access to Information (ATI) Bill in the National Assembly has been hailed as a pivotal step towards bolstering transparency within the nation, reflecting President Hakainde Hichilema’s commitment to accountability and openness.
Information and Media Minister, Cornelius Mweetwa, underscored the significance of President Hichilema’s dedication to enacting the ATI law. Mweetwa noted the President’s consistent advocacy for this legislation since 2006, emphasizing its importance, which prior administrations were hesitant to address.
Speaking in Lusaka shortly after presenting the Bill to parliament, Mweetwa lauded President Hichilema’s fearless pursuit of government transparency and accountability. He highlighted the President’s swift action in abolishing the law on defamation of the President immediately upon assuming office, underscoring the government’s dedication to fostering openness.
Mweetwa, also the Chief Government Spokesperson, assured the public that the long-awaited amendment to the Public Order Act would soon follow, once the remaining procedural steps are completed.
The ATI Bill, formally designated as N.A.B 24 of 2023, serves to establish the Human Rights Commission as an oversight body concerning matters linked to access to information. It aims to delineate citizens’ rights to access information while setting boundaries, instituting procedures for information requests, and aligning with international agreements, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
The Bill, presented for the first time in the House, has been referred to the Committee on Media, Information, and Communication Technologies. National Assembly Speaker, Rt. Hon. Nelly Mutti, MP, has scheduled the Committee to present its report on the Bill on December 7, 2023.
Members of the public have been encouraged to provide submissions related to the Bill during the committee’s deliberations. The presentation of the Access to Information Bill stands as a substantial stride toward cultivating a culture of transparency and accountability, aligning with President Hichilema’s vision for a more open and participatory government in Zambia.