Call to abolish presidential insult law in Malawi

There are calls for the repeal of a controversial provision of the law  making insulting the Malawi President a crime punishable by prison sentence or a fine.

Kanyongolo:  Need to review presidential insult laws
Kanyongolo: Need to review presidential insult laws

University of Malawi law professor Edge Kanyongolo  and Media and Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter chairperson Thom Khanje have argued that individuals should not be criminalised for merely expressing themselves.

Kanyongolo said during Daybreak Malawi radio program on Capital FM on Thursday that Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by all citizens.

“ In democracy we should be very accommodating of criticising,” he said.

“Laws such as these [insulting the President] have no place in a democracy that guarantees freedom of expression,” Kanyongolo stated.

He said by criminalising ‘ insulting the President’ will threaten even newspaper cartoonists for their satirical art work.

“Every citizen is supposed to be protected. We should not make Heads of State as demi-god. There are no special laws for the president. We are all equal before the law,” said Kanyongolo.

Commenting on the same, Khanje said Freedom of Expression is a hallmark of democracy as its unfettered enjoyment contributes to functional democracy that encourages citizen participation for good governance and accountability.

“The constitution guarantees freedom of expression which include criticising the President,” said Khanje.

He advocated for the repeal of sections of the penal code that impede the enjoyment of freedom of expression.

The calls comes after Nyasa Times reported that Balaka First Grade Magistrate Court has ordered a 60-year-old man to pay a fine of K3, 000 or in default serve three months imprisonment with hard labour for insulting President Peter Mutharika and denigrating him.

According to Police Prosecutor Constable Christopher Nyirongo, the convict Alinafe Paul, committed an offence on August 31 at Kanyumbaka village in the district when he found a grader grading the earth road past his village.

He accused the President of grading the earth road during the dry season which was making a lot of dust. Paul has since paid the fine to avoid jail term.

Arrests of citizens for insulting or undermining the authority of President have been happening even during the rule of Joyce Banda, Bingu wa Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi.

During Joyce Banda rule, two women from Mwanza,  26-year-old Eliza Kusheni and Dorothy Ng’onga, 24, were arrested them for insulting President and her ruling People’s Party (PP) after they refused to receive PP cloth and dance for the President.

And in Bingu wa Mutharika regime, four security guards of the international firm GS4 were arrested in Lilongwe and charged with insulting the president after a driver of the ruling party reported them to the police.

Many rights campaigners have argued that protecting Head of State or public officials from criticism solely because of their function or status cannot be reconciled with modern democracy and violates freedom of expression.

They argue that exposure to increased criticism of public officials is an inevitable consequence of a career in politics, and freedom of political debate is integral to the contemporary concept of a democratic society.

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6 years ago

Please educate the simple minds – is the professor of Law saying that insulting a fellow human being is right? Can we be told what the arrested victim actually said (word to word) so that we can characterise the message. If insulting is acceptable, so anybody can insult Bwana Kanyongolo and he will be smiling for the insult – my foot!!!

6 years ago

kutukwana mkwabwino et? then, mbolozanu azimai nonse!!! and nyinizanu azibambo nonse!!!!!!!!!

Mbowe Mulambia
6 years ago

If it was in another country I don’t think people can sit and watch being threated by Government which is there because of the same people

6 years ago

What? Has the DPP goverment gone mad? We do not need dictators in Malawi! We fought for this democracy so that we should have Freedom of Expression. Pitala and his fellow crooks were busy eating cakes and enjoying white prostitutes in America and Europe while we were fighting for this democracy! No, we can’t go back to dictatorship! Pitala ndi kape, chitsiru, chitserekwete, chidepente!

6 years ago

Some faces of so called presidents are self-insulting. Makamaka ya uyuyu….wopanda…..kkkk

6 years ago

This law is a throw-back to the time of Kamuzu Banda. Such laws are made by dictators. There is no place for such a law in a democracy. You can’t legislate for respect to be shown to the head of state. Respect has to be earned. Heads of state and all politicians and public figures must expect criticism and name calling, it goes with the territory. Retaining such a law in Malawi is childish nonsense.

6 years ago

You call kutukwana ‘kunjoya? what kind of kunjoya. Damn religion of democracy! Damn!

Peter Mathanyula
6 years ago

Do we have a president in Malawi, tell me what is his name????

6 years ago

Respect is needed, here in Malawi. No demcr or not but we need respect the authority that fundamental.

6 years ago

Total bullshit. Instead of focusing on real issues Malawians as usual worship useless presidents, Why should anyone be arrested for criticizing the president if he is not performing?

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