Govt, MISA Malawi Challenge Media on ATI Act

Ndanga has partially hailed the officers as at times are providing some information without being asked Ndanga has partially hailed the officers as at times are providing some information without being asked - file photo

Government and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi have urged the journalists in the country to understand the provisions in the Access to Information Act so as to know how to request information from the government information officers.

This follows concerns by some media practitioners that the assigned and recruited information officers are taking long to respond to the requests, something which is affecting timeliness of publications.

However, deputy director in the Ministry of Information, Arthur Chipenda told Zodiak Online on Friday that the public or media should always indicate if they are requesting the information under the law or traditionally, and engage further remedies as provided for in the Act once denied the information.

"Or even after the information has been denied, the one requesting for the information has the power to seek assistance through the internal review for the institution to reconsider the request. And if the institution continues resisting, the one requesting may go further to lodge a complaint to the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) or courts," he said.

He added that "this may take some time due to some considerations, but still the media may go through Public Relations Officers which is somehow quicker".

Meanwhile, MISA Malawi Chaiperson, Teresa Ndanga has partially hailed the officers as at times are providing some information without being asked.

However, to strike the balance, Ndanga suggests the need for more orientations for both the media and the officers to familiarise themselves with the law to differentiate how to request and provide the information either under the law or traditional way.

"They need to understand the law itself on what is required of them. And where the information is asked under the Act, follow the provisions that are in the law, otherwise it may be deemed you are denying people information when the law says you should be providing the same.

"On the part of us the journalists , we also need to familiarise ourselves with the law," Ndanga said.

The Act gives the Information Officers 15 days to provide or deny with reasons and the public or the media is free re-apply or appeal.

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