Enactment of ATI Law a great step forward for Zambia’s democracy
Lusaka, 14 December 2023: Panos Institute Southern Africa commends the National Assembly of Zambia for passing the Access to Information (ATI) law, making a significant milestone in the nation’s democratic journey. This achievement comes after numerous attempts and decades of unfulfilled promises by successive governments to enact the law.
We view the passing of the ATI law as a major boost for Zambia’s democracy, as it provides a framework for citizens to access information held by public entities and use that information to demand for accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs. As we commend the government for this positive move, we are however concerned that some of our submissions on the contents of the law were not considered, a situation that may call for the amendment of the law in the near future.
As we celebrate the passing of the law, we reiterate that it must obligate public (and some private) bodies to provide, to publish, and to disseminate information about their main activities, budgets, policies, and plans. The law must also be anchored on the right of all persons to seek and receive information held by public entities.
We also emphasise the need for the government to put in place effective systems and structures for the successful implementation of the law. Among others, we call for the speedy strengthening of the Human Rights Commission to effectively carry out its mandate as an oversight institution on matters relating to access to information.
This achievement is not just a legal milestone but a crucial tool for citizens to actively engage in civic participation, enabling them to make informed decisions. Panos Institute Southern Africa remains committed to advocating for the effective implementation of the ATI law, ensuring its transformative impact on Zambia’s democratic landscape.
Over the years, Panos has been working with and through the media and civil society to advocate for the enactment of an Access to Information law. Actually, the law was passed while our team was in Livingstone, Southern Province, engaging stakeholders on the importance of access to information as a fundamental human right, an important pillar in the democratic foundations of any country.
Panos will continue to work with like-minded stakeholders, including poor and marginalised communities, to ensure the efficacy of access to information in the country. Through platforms such as information sessions, roundtable meetings, interactive radio and television programmes, public forums, townhall meetings, and other platforms to sensitise citizens on ATI as a human right, the contents of the new law, and how they can use the law to demand and access information held by public entities