The High Court in Lilongwe has lifted a ban on phone-in programmes saying the action taken by Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) infringed on press freedom.
The court granted MISA Malawi an order stopping the ban until a judicial review of the decision is undertaken.
In a ruling delivered on Wednesday, Judge Ruth Chinangwa noted that MACRA has the mandate to ban broadcasts, but the validity of the current ban was questionable.
She noted that the ban, which was aimed at punishing some radio stations for inciting violence during anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations, covered all radio stations and not only the stations that aired programmes that would incite violence.
“If the injunction is not granted the ban clearly affects press freedom of all the stations which did not participate in the condemned action and listener’s right.
“This court has not made a finding of whether the broadcasts violated the license or not but rather questioned the validity of the action taken by the respondent in addressing the alleged misconduct of the licensees,” reads part of the ruling.
Commenting on the ruling, MISA Malawi Chairperson Teresa Ndanga said broadcasters are now free to resume their phone-in programs.
“This is victory for media freedom and freedom of expression and broadcasters can now resume their phone-in programmes. But it is important to celebrate the victory with responsibility. Let us maintain the highest professional standards possible in whatever we do as journalists,” Ndanga said.
MACRA suspended all phone-in programmes on June 7, 2019 citing unprofessionalism on the part of MACRA two out of over 80 broadcasters registered in Malawi.
MISA Malawi engaged MACRA to reverse the ban to no avail.
The media body then dragged MACRA to court, seeking the Court’s declaration that the decision of MACRA violates constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, among other rights, and that the procedure followed in making the decision was improper as no consultations were made with affected parties as required by law.
The court has set October 15, 2019 for judicial review on the matter.