Malawi President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday hosted journalists from both print, electronic and online media houses at official Sanjika Palace in Blantyre where he was persuaded to consider signing the ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ that urges governments in Africa to abolish “insult laws” and set free press high on the agenda.
During the presidential interface, journalists through their media bodies Media Institute Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter and Media Council of Malawi (MCM) took turns bringing penitent issues which affect the media fraternity.
MISA – Malawi chairperson, Anthony Kasunda started his speech by asking the President to lead the media in observing a one minute silence in respect of Capital FM journalist Mrs Cecilia Kuyewawa, who passed away on Monday at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
Kasunda expressed concern over the behaviour of Malawi Police Service who are fond of beating up journalists while performing their duty.
“I would like to commend your government for recognizing the importance of a free media in promoting and safeguarding democracy. Your government came out strongly to condemn Police Officers who beat up a journalist recently and warned that all those who intimidate and beat up journalists for merely doing their work,” said Kasunda.
Kasunda also requested the President to sign the Declaration of Table Mountain; open up the national broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and ensure that Malawi has an enabling law on Access to Information.”
Kasunda said the Declaration of Table Mountain calls upon African governments to respect and uphold freedom of the press by among others abolishing ‘insult’ and criminal defamation laws which continue to be applied to harass arrest and/or imprison media practitioners in most African countries. “MISA Malawi believes strongly in the fundamental role the media plays in building and sustaining democracy, but is at the same time, mindful that this can only be achieved in tolerant and democratic societies that cherish and respect local and international protocols that uphold the freedom, independence and safety of the media and media practitioners,” he said.
Misa-Malawi outgoing chair said the country’s statutes still have repressive laws enacted during the colonial period.
“Some of these laws, Your Excellency, include the Protected Flags, Emblems and Names Act which actually quotes a fine in Pound Sterling and not in Malawi Kwacha supporting the urgency with which legal reforms must take place in Malawi, 50 years after independence; the Official Secrets Act (1913); the Printed Publications Act (1947); and the Censorship and Control of Entertainment Act. Your Excellency, we feel it is important to take a critical look at laws that negate on the Constitutional guarantee to free speech and media freedom as provided for under Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution,” said Kasunda.
Kasunda also asked the president to assist in passing Access to Information Bill as promised in the DPP manifesto.
The President promised that he will look into matter as raised by MISA Malawi Chair.
Mutharika, who was in jovial mood, then opened the dance floor alongside senior government officials who were later joined by the media.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :