Monday, 30 April 2012

Litany of events affecting Press Freedom in Malawi

May 3 is World Freedom Day. The UN first proclaimed World Press Freedom Day in 1993 to celebrate the fundamental principals of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world and  to defend the media from attacks on their independence.

 But though its called the world press freedom Day, journalists in this world including my country Malawi are not free,courageous journalists are subject to censorship, shutdowns and even death threats.

Freedom House, a nonprofit organization with consultant status at the United Nations, finds that press freedom is declining around the world, and that only 15 percent of the world population lives in a country with a truly free press.

Malawi is one of the countries where journalists are facing a number of challenges, Recently   Former President  Bingu wa Mutharika made a shocking move when he signed a newspaper ban law, which was described as an intimidation and a threat to the journalism profession.

As we join the rest of the world in commemorating the World Press Freedom day I call upon the new president Joyce Banda who vowed to protect press freedom in the country to remove or suspend the Law.

The following is an outline of recent events that affected press freedom

The Malawi National Assembly amended Section 46 of its Penal Code and made it into a new law in November 2010.The statute now reads “if the minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the publication or importation of any law publication would be contrary to the public interest, he may, by order published gazette, prohibit the publication or importation of such publication.” Initially,the Penal Code empowered the information minister “to prohibit the publication of any seditious materials”

Local political and law experts have questioned these amendments and Blessings Chisinga, a renowned political analyst from the university of Malawi described the amendments as “a strategic movement towards 2014 general election”

According to Chisinga the signing of the new law further thwarts the ratification of Access to Information Bill which has not yet been passed since it was drafted in 2003, which could have helped journalists to easily access information.

Police and ruling party supporters have also been implicated in the intimidation, arbitrary arrest and beating of journalists attempting to report on political events. On October 11, police summoned and questioned two journalists from the Malawi News, Innocent Chitosi, a deputy editor, Archibald Kasakula, a reporter  and George Kasakula of Weekend Nation after two papers published stories  about the death of a university of Malawi student activist Robert Chasowa and Mutharika’s critic  who was murdered at the campus of Polytechnic College.

On September 12, police arrested and questioned a journalist, Ernest Mhwayo, for taking pictures of president Mutharika’s multimillion dollar farm.  He was charged with “conduct likely to cause breach of peace” and released on the following day. Several journalists were beaten and detained by police in July as they covered demonstrations throughout the country.

No comments:

Post a Comment