Free Expression Institute splashes awards to Malawian individuals, institution

A local non-profit organisation, the Free Expression Institute, has honoured 24 Malawians and one organisation for their resolute contribution towards promotion of freedom of expression in the country.

They were awarded with the Aretha Kamwendo Award, the Hardy Nyirenda Award and the Epiphania Bonjesi Award.

Late Nyirenda was Malawi’s prolific columnist, and journalist who worked for the BBC, the Malawi Democrat and the Sunday Times Newspapers, among others.

As a young Chancellor College student Nyirenda was expelled from school alongside three others for his writing but showed tremendous courage by continuing with his writing and proved to be an exceptional writer.

Osman awarded

Osman awarded

And Kamwendo is a former state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) journalist, who inspired many young girls for her pioneering role as Malawi’s first ever station manager of a community radio station as well as the first ever Vice Chair for the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi.

Epiphania Bonjesi, a young school girl, was accidently killed by police who were quelling demonstrations staged by opposition supporters who were protesting against election results in 2004 which saw the then ruling party candidate, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, declared winner ahead of opposition leaders John Tembo and Gwanda Chakuamba.

The FEI presented the Hardy Nyirenda Award to individuals who had been outstanding in promoting free speech.

These included one organisation, the Centre for Social Concern and ten individuals- female photojournalist Thoko Chikondi, Traditional Authority Bvumbwe, musician Lucius Banda, academic activist Jessie Kabwila, broadcasters Gospel Kazako and Al Osman, health rights activist Martha Kwataine, women’s rights activist Seodi White, actor Michael Usi and parliamentarian George Mnesa.

The organisation, whose objective is promoting freedom of expression in the country, also presented awards to winners in poetry writing competition (Epiphania Bonjesi Award) and top bloggers, the Aretha Kamwendo Award.

Recipients of the Aretha Kamwendo top bloggers award were Edmond Kanjedza (http://edceekays.blogspot.com/ ) Levi Zeleza Manda (http://levimanda.blogspot.com/), Chalo Mvula (http://www.chamtheblogger.com/), Gregory Gondwe (http://gregorygondwe.wordpress.com/), Jimmy Kainja (http://jimmykainja.co.uk/) Kondwani Munthali (http://munthalikondwani.blogspot.com/) Pearson Nkhoma (http://tukombo.blogspot.com/), Bright Mhango (http://www.mutafire.blogspot.com/), Vince Kumwenda (http://vincekumwenda.blogspot.com/) and Victor Kaonga (http://ndagha.blogspot.com).

And those who received the Epiphania Bonjesi Award for winning the junior, teenagers and visually impaired categories respectively of poetry wring competition were Lumbani Munthali, a 11-year-old from Rumphi, Janet Phuyo, 18, and Evance Nkhambule, 36, both from Lilongwe.

In a statement, the Free Expression Institute express gratitude the Nyirenda, Kamwendo and Bonjesi families for accepting them to honour their relations as part of the 20 July commemorations.

“There were several people we wanted to name awards after, some of them we failed to trace their families, others were not so keen. We therefore do not take for granted the support we received from the three families,” the FEI statement said.

Thousands of Malawians went into streets for the anti-government demonstration on July 2011 protesting against the worsening political and economic situation under the former regime of late Bingu wa Mutharika who died of cardiac arrest last year.

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