Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has told Parliament it will shortly be considering a Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill after a six-year delay, writes Ellen Chikale.

The contents of the bill will be made public before the enactment process begins, to allow public participation.

Mwanawasa re-introduced the bill during his official opening of Parliament.

The FOI bill was withdrawn in 2002, and has not reintroduced on the grounds that government was carrying out consultations.  The extended delay drew widespread and ongoing criticism.

Recently Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Mike Mulongoti said that the FOI bill would be circulated to all stakeholders and the general public for comment.

Media groups have warmly welcomed the reintroduction of the bill.

The Press Association of Zambia (PAZA) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia have in the past expressed concern over the delays.

PAZA President Andrew Sakala regretted that during the period when government was consulting his association, which is a major stakeholder in the FOI bill enactment, was not officially consulted.

Sakala hoped that those who were being consulted actually made valuable contributions to the bill.

And MPs have been called upon to support the Bill when it is taken to parliament, as it is fundamental to the fight against corruption.