The High Court in Lilongwe on Wednesday lifted the ban Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) on phone-in programmes giving leeway to broadcasters to resume the shows on their airwaves.
Macra effected the ban on June 7 following Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) one million march held in the country’s cities to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to step down for allegedly mismanaging the May 21 presidential poll results.
The demonstrations were covered live by several radio stations, with some giving an opportunity to listeners to make phone calls to give their views on the issue.
Macra director general Godfrey Itaye accused some broadcasters of indulging in careless and unethical coverage of post-election events which has potential to incite the masses into violence.
But Media Institute in Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter sought court’s relief on the ban of phone-in radio programmes, arguing that the suspension is an infringement of freedom of expression and may lead to loss of revenue for broadcasters.
Delivering the ruling, High Court judge Ruth Chinangwa said she granted an injunction to Misa-Malawi because Macra erred in issuing a blanket ban which itpointed out violates rights of the broadcasters.
The judge said the court was yet to ascertain whether broadcasters indeed violated the terms of their licences as alleged by Macra.
Misa-Malawi and a number of radio stations that include Times Radio, Zodiak Broadcasting Station and Capital Radio sought for the court relief..
Misa-Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga hailed the court determination as “victory for freedom of expression.”