World Press Freedom Day: MISA Malawi concerned over ATI delay

On this World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), MISA Malawi has expressed concern over Government’s delay to operationalize the Access to Information (ATI) Act.

In a statement today, MISA Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga said Malawians cannot effectively enjoy free expression without access to accurate and credible information. She said the law is also critical with the outbreak of Covid-19 and proliferation of fake news.

“The Minister of Information and Communications Technology needs to set a date for the commencement of the Access to Information Act for Malawians to fully enjoy the right to free expression and other fundamental human rights which cannot be realised without access to information,” she said.

On safety of Journalists, Ndanga noted that in 2019 there were attacks on journalists by party functionaries, cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament, the police, and members of the public.

She said it is a crime when framers and defenders of the law decide to rape the very principles and doctrines they are supposed to protect.

“Journalism is not a crime. Attacking journalists is barbaric and unconstitutional and must stop. The Police must investigate and prosecute cases involving the assault, harassment or unlawful detention or arrest of journalists and other media practitioners conducting their lawful professional duties,” she said.

The MISA Malawi chairperson then called for the independence of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), saying the broadcaster is still being used as a propaganda tool and mouthpiece of the party in power despite provisions for its independence under the Communications Act of 2016.

“We call on President Mutharika and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to free MBC and ensure its independence,” said Ndanga.

She also demanded Government to stop using Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) as a tool to silence and intimidate independent broadcasters in the country.

According to Ndanga, in 2019 MACRA banned live broadcasts and phone-in programs, largely seen by the media sector as a government attempt to gag private media critical of the state.

This year’s WPFD is being celebrated under the theme ‘Journalism without fear or favor’. The 2020 WPFD theme is a call to action on media independence, a key element in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Media.

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