We want access to information law, says Fr Chiti

We want access to information law, says Fr Chiti

 

DSC09541Zambia is yet at another cross roads with regards to a law that would enhance government’s openness to its citizens, transparency, accountability and good governance generally.

Viewed in its right frame as a Human right the ATI guarantees people the right to access information from the public bodies

It is very sad that the Government has schemed to hoodwink and robe the Zambians of their important piece of legislation even after strongly using it as a campaign tool to ascend to power in 2011. Since winning the 2011 elections the PF has been shifting goal posts on fulfilling of the promise of delivering the ATI law. It is shameful that their term is expiring in the next few days or so yet they have not enacted the bill into law.

The ATI Coalition composed of Operation Young Vote (OYV), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD), Jesuit Centre Theological Reflection (JCTR), Press Freedom Committee (PFC), Dialogue for Development (D4D), Common Cause, Action-aid and others has on behalf of the citizens and other stakeholders remained steadfast and resolute to follow the PF’s handling of the ATI promises for the past five (5) years.

Convinced that the ATI is:

  • founded on the principle that public Offices/Officers hold information not for themselves but for the public;
  • critical for enabling citizens and others to exercise their voice;
  • inevitable for effective monitoring and holding of Government bodies including private bodies holding public information
  • necessary in order for any person to enter into informed and meaningful dialogue so as to make decisions that have bearing on their lives and other people’s and
  • Vital for empowering all citizens; – including vulnerable and excluded people, to claim their broader rights and entitlements.

Against this background, the Coalition found it fit to engage members of the general public into understanding the ATI concept and undertook a nationwide signature collection campaign which has culminated into this noble demand of picketing the people’s representatives in Parliament.

Hon Kabinga Pande, Chaiperson of the Information and Broadcasting Committee, I hereby present a total of 101,799 signatures collected from 70 districts across the ten provinces of Zambia. These signatures presented today, represent/symbolize the 90 Constituency petitions of Members of parliament, where citizens are demanding that their representatives support the demand for the enactment of ATI Law.

  • (Present Signatures)

The Coalition wishes to further air its concern at the manner in which the PF Government has decided to casually handle the enactment of laws and legislation, which have a direct and positive impact on the lives of its citizens. The culture and attitude of dragging and procrastinating which is detrimental to the wellbeing of the country has become the order of the day in the PF Government.

The Government has employed every trick to ensure that the law does not see the light of day. It is disheartening that President Edgar Lungu (a legal mind himself) and his regime in their pronouncements are reluctant to enact the Access To Information Bill (ATI) because they feel that some sections of the media will use the law irresponsibly. The Coalition is of the conviction that the PF Government is scared of being exposed at the advent of the ATI hence its continued regard for the ATI Law as a media law and not a law befitting all Zambians. The President’s statement including those of the Chief Government Spokesperson indicate a clear lack of commitment to a cause that they themselves championed prior to and after the 2011 General Elections and the January 20 2015 Election.

The Coalition will remain steadfast and work with progressive Members of Parliament and other stakeholders to ensure that the PF Government tables the ATI Bill without any delay. It must be made clear to the PF that with or without the PF Government, Zambians will get their right to Access Information guaranteed one day.

God bless you all.

Contact details for further comments

 

Fr Leonard Chiti

Executive Dorector

JCTR

Coalition members

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