Malawi has slipped seven places on the World Press Freedom index as experts are concerned about insult laws that threaten the work of journalists in the country.
The World Press Freedom Index, which is released annually by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), ranks 180 countries according to how journalists are allowed to do their work.
RWB comes up with the index by sending questionnaires to experts in the countries included in the report.
In the 2016 report Malawi is ranked 66, behind countries like Cape Verde (32), Botswana (43) and Ghana (26) but above neighbours Zambia (114), Zimbabwe (124) and Mozambique (87).
Reads the organisations’ assessment of Malawi: “After Bingu wa Mutharika was elected president in 2004, freedom of information improved in Malawi and the number of abuses against reporters fell.
“Nonetheless, arbitrary police violence continues and journalists covering police operations sometimes find their equipment being seized or they may even be roughed up. A law still provides for the imprisonment of those who “insult” the head of state.”
The report comes as the media in Malawi continue to urge President Peter Mutharika to sign the Table Mountain Declaration which calls for the repeal of insult laws and criminal defamation.
The media is also fighting for the passing of an unadulterated Access to Information Bill which journalists believe will give them more freedom to ask for information that they cannot currently be allowed to access.
In the report, Namibia is the highest ranked African country at 17th place while Eritrea on 180 has maintained its place as the worst ranked country in Africa and the world.
Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark are the top four countries on the index.
The RWB has however expressed concern over increasing attacks against journalists as reflected by the various movements in the index.
RWB secretary general Christophe Deloire said: “The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests.
“Journalism worthy of the name must be defended against the increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests. Guaranteeing the public’s right to independent and reliable news and information is essential if humankind’s problems, both local and global, are to be solved.”