Malawi Minister in damage control after Pres. Banda tells ‘irritating’ media: You killed Bingu

After Malawi President Joyce Banda accused the country’s media of being responsible for death of her predecessor President Bingu wa Mutharika who died following a heart attack in April last year, the Minister of Information  Moses Kunkuyu has leapt to redeem the situation by saying government would like to re-assure the media that it is still committed to ensuring respect for media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.

The stunning accusation was made at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Monday when the Malawi leader met members of the Media Institute for Southern Africa Malawi Chapter who requested her to sign a continental declaration aimed at getting head of states commit to press freedom.

But Kunkuyu said in a statement released on Tuesday and made available to Nyasa Times that Malawi that the Joyce Banda administration highly values the constructive checks and balances that the media provide towards decision making processes by those in authority.

”The current administration will therefore strive to ensure protection and promotion of the rights of journalists in their daily operations in this democratic dispensation,” said Kunkuyu in the statement.

Kunkuyu: Damage control

Kunkuyu: Damage control

“Government will in no way make decisions that seek to suffocate the media freedom as rightly enshrined in the country’s constitution under Sections 34, 35 and 36.”

”In addition, Government still stands by the positive steps it took such as the scrapping off of the undemocratic and draconian laws such Section 46 of the Penal Code and a further commitment for the passing of the Access to Information Bill. This is in view that only well informed citizens can make informed decisions.

”The awarding of broadcasting licenses for radios and TVs aims at giving Malawians a wide variety of information sources so that they can fully enjoy their right/freedom to choose which source to use, whenever they want and government pledges to continue with this,” the statement reads.

It further says, ”As government, we further realize that the country’s vision to recover the battered economy would be in vain if the media is left out or suppressed.”

Kunkuyu,  who is also government spokesman, said  Banda’s administration pledges to maintain the current cordial relationship with the media.

“It will continue holding consultative meetings with media managers on issues affecting them and the nation at large.”

Banda said she stopped reading Malawi newspapers because they hate her and could kill her in the same way they did with Mutharika.

But University of Malawi law expert Edge Kanyongolo criticized the President for her comments.

“When those in power are tempted to lash at the media for being too aggressive, too critical or too negative , they should consider a quotation from the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Handy side v United Kingdom case:

“[The legal protection of freedom of expression] applies not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that plural ism, tolerance and broad mindedness without which there is no democratic society,” said Kanyongolo.

Banda was sworn in as president to finish Mutharika’s term which ends next year. She came to power at a time the country’s relations with major Western donors had soured. She quickly reversed some of Mutharika’s policies and restored ruptured diplomatic relations with the southern African country’s main bilateral aid giver Britain.

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