Information has been described as the oxygen of democracy
because without it, people are unable to participate effectively
in the governance processes. Freedom of information (FOI) gives
members of the public the right to access information held by
the government and in some instances, by private institutions.
The aim is to lift the veil of secrecy that governments tend to
operate in as well as to reinforce the idea that governments hold
information for the people who elected them into office.
In Zambia, the Access to Information (ATI) Bill has been
embraced on the premise that a free press and an informed
citizenry are better placed to provide checks and balances
to public institutions and the Government, thereby ensuring
transparency and good governance. FOI is seen and recognised
as both a key ingredient in the democratic governance as well as
a fundamental human right.
It has, however been observed that the level of awareness
among citizens with regard to the ATI provisions are lower than
expected. This is despite the numerous sensitisation programmes
aimed at educating the public about the importance of having
legislation in place which empowers citizens to hold leaders and
institutions accountable.
There still exists the misconception that the ATI Bill, when and if
enacted into law, will benefit the media fraternity more than any
other section of society. There are also fears that some members
of the public may abuse it.
Successive governments have promised to ensure the passage
of the ATI Law. Politicians have promised to seriously look into
the enactment of the Bill into law on numerous occasions, but
nothing concrete has come out of these pronouncements.
On the 4th of May 2016, the Civil Society Coalition on the
Enactment of the Access to Information Bill picketed Parliament
and presented a petition demanding the enactment of the
Access to Information Law.
The Coalition, which presented the petition signed by 101,799
people from 70 districts in the country to the Chairperson of
the Information and Broadcasting Committee, Kabinga Pande,
was displeased by what it says is the casual manner with which
the Patriotic Front (PF) Government had handled the enactment
of laws that have a direct and positive impact on the lives of
Coalition Chairperson, Fr. Leonard Chiti, observed that the culture
and attitude of dragging and procrastinating, detrimental to the
wellbeing of the country, had continued to be the order of the
day in the Patriotic Front -led government.
Fr. Chiti said it is disheartening that in their pronouncements,
President Edgar Lungu and his regime are reluctant to enact the
Bill because they feel some sections of the media will use the
law irresponsibly.


He further mentioned that the President’s statement on the Bill,
including that of the Minister of Information and Broadcasting
Services, Chishimba Kambwili indicate a clear lack of commitment
to a cause that they themselves championed prior to, and after
the 2011 General Election.
The Coalition says it will remain steadfast and work with
progressive members of Parliament and other stakeholders
to ensure that the Government tables the ATI bill without any
further delay.
Last year, President Lungu said he was thinking twice about
Zambia enacting the ATI Law because of the conduct of some
media practitioners whom he said were engaging in irresponsible
It should be noted that freedom of information is a fundamental
human right without which individuals and institutions cannot
function properly.

Rationale and ReseaRch
The objective of the research was to establish the challenges
faced by ordinary citizens in Zambia, in an effort to access
information from government and public institutions. The survey
also sought to establish how public institutions respond to
requests for information submitted by ordinary citizens, as well
as to assess the levels of transparency in government and public
institutions with regard to access to information.
The research also sought to inculcate a culture of transparency in
the government and public institutions.
Eight (8) public institutions were selected for this survey, which
was conducted between 10 August 2016 and 2 September 2016.
The research involved writing to all selected institutions and
conducting an assessment of the institutions’ online platforms
as well as making phone calls and physical visits.

The following public institutions were surveyed:
1. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)
2. Energy Regulation Board (ERB)
3. Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child
Health (MCDMCH)
4. Ministry of Health (MoH)
5. Ministry of Youth and Sport (MYSCD)
6. National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA)
7. Office of the Auditor General (OAG)
8. Public Service Commission (PSC)

Select target paragraph3