Malawi makes biggest improvement on press freedom index

Malawi is one of the countries that have made the biggest improvement on the Reporters Without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index,  climbing up by 71 positions s from 146 to 75 since last year.

According to Reporters Without Borders, Malawi has improved since the change of politics after the death of late president Bingu wa Mutharika and the ascendancy to power of President Joyce Banda.

“Malawi registered the biggest leap in the index, almost returning to the position it held before the excesses at the end of the [Bingu wa] Mutharika administration,” reported the organisation.

During the period President Banda has been in office since April 2012, the country has reversed the repressive media ban law introduced under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rule.

Rest we forget
Rest we forget

Presidential Press Secretary, Steve Nhlane said the Joyce Banda’s administration “deserves to be commended for its commitment to ensuring media freedom and freedom of expression.”

He told Nyasa Times : “ This has been manifested through the repeal of the draconian laws enacted by the previous regime chiefly section 46 of the penal code but also the president’s statements in support of press freedom. “

Nhlane further pointed out that under Dr Joyce Banda’s administration the media in Malawi “enjoys unprecedented freedom to publish anything and everything they wish to put into the public domain.”

He assured that the JB administration will continue to champion media freedom “realising that the media as the fourth estate has a pivotal role to play in the development of the country through among others fighting corruption and educating the masses on government policies.”

Chairperson of the Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa-Malawi), Anthony Kasunda, described the development as a move in the right direction in as far as press freedom is concerned.

“Both government and media need to show professionalism so that we can have better press freedom. Government should also provide the press with a wider playground to ensure that information gathering and expression is not tampered with,” Kasunda said as quoted by The Nation.

The index ranked Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway as the top three countries in the world for press freedom. The bottom three were Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

The report bases its ranking on seven main criteria which include pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure. The seventh criterion is a score given to each country by RSF reflecting the level
of violence towards journalists in a country.

“This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term,” said the organisation.

“The press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire said.

Coinciding with the release of the index, Reporters Without Borders is to start publishing an annual global “indicator” of worldwide media freedom, which measures the level of freedom of information around the globe.

“In view of the emergence of new technologies and the interdependence of governments and peoples, the freedom to produce and circulate news and information needs to be evaluated at the planetary as well as national level. Today, in 2013, the media freedom ‘indicator’ stands at 3 395, a point of reference for the years to come,” said Reporters Without Borders.

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