Zambia’s Civil Society Coalition on the Access to Information bill says it is very disappointed and disheartened with the Zambian President, Edgar Lungu for publicly saying that he is reluctant to enact the Access To Information Bill (ATI) because he feels that some sections of the media will use the law irresponsibly once enacted.
According to the coalition, the President’s statement indicates a clear lack of commitment to a cause that they themselves (Patriotic Front Government) championed prior to and after the 20 January 2015 Presidential election.
“We wish to reiterate that the ATI law is for the greater benefit of ordinary citizens (in Zambia). ATI law has never been about the media, it’s about public access to information from institutions that channel development,” the Civil Society Coalition on the Access to Information said.
They add, “The country has spent resources and a lot of time on the ATI, yet at this very advanced stage of the process the Republican President, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu intends to obliterate all the gains made in advancing the ATI law,” said the Coalition.
Earlier, reacting to the Government’s new position on ATI, Zambia’s Post newspaper said in an editorial, “In a democracy, the right to information is of the highest value. Without it, democracy turns into a caricature. Security is the usual plea for corrupt regimes to deny people access to information; it is the argument of tyrants. The most effective way of ensuring the government’s accountability to the people is by giving the people and the media more and more access to information.
The Zambian coalition on ATI comprises the 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) of the Post newspaper, Dialogue for Development, Common Cause, Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council (NGOCC), Actionaid and others.