The Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) is elated by Cabinet’s granting of the initial approval for the introduction of the Access to Information Bill (ATI) to Parliament.
The reintroduction of the ATI is a step to the enactment of the Access to Information Act which is progress towards empowering citizens with access to information and promotion of transparency and accountability in the country. The right to seek, access and receive information is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa to which Zambia is a signatory.
CSPR notes the enactment of the Access to Information Law is long overdue with its genesis being
initiated by the Movement for Multiparty Development (MMD) government in the year 2002 who kept
the bill at consultative stage for close to 10 years. We note that since then successive governments have not popularize the Access to Information law. As a country we eagerly wait to see whether the United Party for National Development (UPND) will uphold its campaign promises to give the Zambian people the much-anticipated law.
Legislation of the access to information law ensures that governments are responsive to the needs and
interests of their citizens while fostering an environment of trust, participation, and progress. Thus,access to information is a cornerstone to transparent and accountable governance. The absence of this bill simply means that the right to information is only implied in Zambia. The government does allow for public scrutiny of key documents but at its own discretion which is uncontestable. Access to Information is not backed up by law as there is no legal framework that grants citizens or civil society the right to access certain types of information from the government. The obstruction of this bill into Law is preventing people from attaining their socio-economic and civil rights as they are unable to access information about decisions affecting them.
With the foregoing, CSPR is elated with the decision by Cabinet to grant an initial approval of the
introduction of the bill to parliament. The enactment of to the access to information law will increase public trust in government as decisions made by government will be transparent and that government officials and institutions will be held accountable for their actions.
Furthermore, the access to information law empowers citizens to make informed decisions during
elections and allows them to engage in meaningful public discourse thus strengthening the democratic
process. The law is also for the benefit of government as the civil society, research institutes and experts can scrutinize government programs, documents and policy and provide opinions which can enable
policy makers address challenges, allocate resources, and implement evidence-based solutions. Access
to information Law further reflects principles of good governance, the government will be meeting its
obligation to supporting human rights by allowing individuals to exercise their rights to freedom and
access to information which is also crucial in meeting its international obligations and demonstrating
commitment to democratic principles.
It is for this reason that CSPR is calling for the speedy enactment of the bill to allow all the benefits come into fruition.