The Malawi National Assembly has scrapped off the draconian Section 46 of the Penal Code permitting the government to ban media outlets that information minister declares contrary to public interest.
Most of the MPs who spoke on the Bill supported the move to scrap the section with only a lone voice of DPP legislator for Thyolo south Eunice Napolo still supporting the undemocratic law.
Former Minister of Information Symon Vuwa Kaunda, who pushed and lobbied Parliament during President Bingu wa Mutharika’s time to pass the act, stunned the House when he made a u-turn supporting its scrapping off.
“I rise to support the motion,” this is all Vuwa Kaunda could say when he was given a chance to speak on the Bill.
Leader of the House Henry Phoya, who tabled the Bill, described Section 46 of the Penal Code as “unreasonable limitation to free publication, freedom of speech and freedom of the media.”
“This is one Bill that gave this country a wrong image without any benefits to government,” said Phoya in a symbolic move demonstrating Joyce Banda administration’s resolve to democratic reforms.
Section 46 is the third of the bad laws to be repealed in the current meeting of Parliament and since President Joyce Banda took over the leadership of the country from late Mutharika. The other bad laws are the Injunction Law and the Change of National Flag.
Members of the media who were covering the proceedings in the House could not help it but joined the legislators in the cerebrations.
MCP spokesperson on legal matters Alekeni Menyani said the enactment of the Section; banning of advertisements to Nation Publications Limited newspapers; and also the burning of vehicles belonging to Zodiak Broadcasting Services as a manifestation that the DPP was set to muzzle and gag the press in the country.
“This is one of those bad laws synonymous with the DPP misrule,” he said.
Late Mutharika has had a rocky relationship with the press during his time in office.
But the repealing of the media ban law was hailed by journalists as “victory for media freedom.”