MISA Malawi notes that the Cybersecurity Act is criminalizing media freedom

Golden Matonga

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Malawi) says while it does not condone insulting others or any cybercrime-related behaviours, the Electronic Transactions and Cybersecurity Act of 2016 is a law that is being used to criminalize freedom of expression and media freedom in Malawi.

MISA Malawi says during 2024 World Press Freedom Day Presidential Breakfast at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, it asked President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera for a review of Electronic Transactions and Cybersecurity Act of 2016 to ensure that it is in line with democratic freedoms such as free speech.

In a statement dated 23rd May, 2024 signed by its Chairperson Golden Matonga, MISA Malawi says Section 91 of the Act reads;” Any person who transmits any unsolicited electronic information to another person for the purposes of illegal trade or commerce or other illegal activity, upon conviction, be liable to a fine of K2 million, and to imprisonment for 5 years,” reads part of the statement 

MISA Malawi says ironically, the Act does not clearly indicate that insulting the president or any other individual is an offence saying in 2022, the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act was amended to remove “President” as a protected name.

The media organization says it is not clear which law other than the Electronic Transactions and Cybersecurity Act was used to criminalize insulting the President observing that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) is now frequently using the Cybersecurity law to clampdown on journalists and critical ordinary citizens.

MISA Malawi promotes and advocates for media freedom, freedom of expression, and access to information,” reads the statement in part.

The organization has claimed that in February 2024, over 14 journalists at the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) were subjected to police searching for mobile phones and computers on allegations of cyber spamming.

It says Cyber spamming is among the charges that the police used when they detained journalists Macmillan Mhone and Gregory Gondwe in April, 2024 saying in May, 2022 Chidawawa Mainje, a Nurse based in Ntcheu, was arrested for allegedly insulting President Chakwera and First Lady Madame Monica Chakwera.

MISA Malawi says on 16th May, 2024 the Mponela Magistrate Court in Dowa convicted and sentenced Sainani Joshua Nkhoma to pay a fine of K200,000 (115 US Dollars) or spend 6 months in prison for insulting President Chakwera.

Sainani Nkhoma, who hails from Chikuluti 3 village in the area of Traditional Authority Mponela, has paid the fine and is now out of Ntchisi prison where he was on remand for about 2 weeks.

According to MISA Malawi findings, cyber spamming charges are contrary to section 91 of Malawi’s Electronic and Cybersecurity Act of 2016.


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