Press Statement on the Need to Enact the Access to Information Bill-13th May, 2015

The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) is gravely concerned by a recent statement made by the Republican President Mr. Edgar Lungu that he is reconsidering whether the Access to Information Bill should be tabled before Parliament owing to the publishing of information allegedly leaked to some journalists. The Nation is reminded that two weeks ago, President Lungu was reported in the Times of Zambia of 30th April 2015 as having said that access to information is a right for all Zambians and that no one should be barred from accessing information as stipulated in the Constitution. President Lungu is further quoted as having said, “So let us allow people to speak up, the media to cover us, we will allow the media to do its work and we will allow Zambians to judge for themselves”. LAZ cannot agree more with the earlier position taken by President Lungu. The purpose of the access to information law is to increase the capacity of ordinary citizen’s participation in the governance of our country through making informed decisions on matters of public interest based upon information that will be made available pursuant to disclosure procedures to be complied with by holders of public office. This will in turn enhance the transparency and accountability of Government for the betterment of all Zambians. LAZ does not agree with the position now espoused by the Republican President that the Access to Information Bill if enacted into law can be abused to publish State secrets by anyone. The public is aware that there are existing safeguards against abuse of public information in the present laws, such as the State Security Act Cap 111 of the Laws of Zambia that provide penalties for such abuse.

LAZ therefore, joins all other stakeholders who have spoken on this important subject, and calls upon the Government and President Lungu in particular to urgently enact the Access to Information Bill to accord the people of Zambia the freedom to know how the Government is conducting their affairs. The present constitutional and legal dispensation of our country makes it imperative for the public to always be kept informed about how leaders, who are given the mandate to run the affairs of the nation, are operating for and on behalf of those who put them in public office.

KMG Chisanga

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