A legal expert has said it is counter productive for President Peter Mutharika to use archaic laws designed to protect one-party dictatorships to use them in a democracy to muzzle freedom.
Mutharika said on Saturday at Thyolo Boma during his whistle-stop tour that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members supporting Vice-President Saulos Chilima’s presidential candidacy risk arrest for insulting a Head of State under the protected flags, emblems and names Act.
The Malawi leader said he is ready to use Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblem and Names Act as Malawi laws prevent anyone from insulting the President.
Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblem and Names Act states that any person who does any act or utters any words or publishes or utters any writing calculated to or liable to insult, ridicule or to show disrespect to or with reference to the President, the National Flag, the Armorial Ensigns, the Public Seal, or any protected emblem or protected likeness, shall be liable to a fine of K250 000 and to imprisonment for two years.
But Justin Dzonzi, Chairman of Malawi Human Rights Commission and lawyer said the laws were outdated and needed immediate repealing.
“The Act is not in tandem with the democracy. That was an old law which was more applicable in one party era,” he said.
Dzonzi said the law can only be applied with moderation, saying applying it seriously would be muzzling freedom of expression.
“These laws were designed to protect the one party regime. In a democracy, one of the pillars is freedom of expression,” he said.
Mutharika said he would order the police to arrest the DPP “rebels.”
Said Mutharika: “I am giving them one more warning. This is the last warning, if they continue insulting me, as they did in Lilongwe, there is a limit, ndiwafinya [I will squeeze them]. Section 4 is clear about that.”
He repeated the remarks at Mitawa Primary School ground in Traditional Authority Njema in Mulanje, saying he is giving Chilima Movement ‘one more warning’ before he invokes the law against them, for insulting him.
Mutharika said it was unlawful to disrespect the flag of this country or the presidency.
“You should know that I don’t have the patience of job who can be tossed around without reacting to your torments,” he added.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) has stated that though the President is at liberty to use any law, others might challenge them on the basis that they infringe on people’s freedom of expression.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :