Malawi’s state-funded rights body condemns political foul-mouthing

The state-funded Malawi Human Right Commission (MHRC) has called upon all politicians to desist from utterances that fall within the realm of hate speech and ensure that their conduct as public figures and politicians is based on the value of civility and a high sense of decorum.

According to an overview report of the current status of human rights in Malawi from June 2012-May 2013 released on Thursday in Lilongwe, foul-mouthing tendency is a threat to a smooth running towards the 2014 general elections.

“The Commission observed the growing trend of hate speeches during political rallies, particularly uttered by officials of the ruling People’s Party (PP) against opposition party leaders.

“In the run up to the 2014 Tripartite Elections, it is critical that politicians should desist from making derogatory and inflammatory speeches against other political leaders as such incidences influence elections-related violence,” reads part of the report.

Uladi Mussa: Known for making scatching remarks
Uladi Mussa: Known for making foul-mouthing remarks

The report further says these act are inimical to article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and section 34 of the Constitution which provides for the right to hold opinion without interference on one hand and section 40 of the Constitution which provides for political rights and freedoms, on the other hand.

“The Commission emphasizes the point that the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution does not entail the right to say anything, including words that constitute hate speeches against particular persons or groups of persons on account of political differences.

“The Commission encourages politicians, their supporters and the public at large to focus on issues and not personalities and are therefore, called upon to exercise tolerance. Stakeholders are called upon to scale up efforts to build capacity in the political and electoral system and ensure they exercise restraint and tolerance in political process,” the report reads.

Recently there have been reports of increased cases of political rhetoric — both from the government and the opposition — that is inflammatory and intended to bring hatred and misunderstanding as the country move towards elections.

United Democratic Front president (UDF) Atupele Muluzi and Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Uladi Mussa for uttering unfair remarks that the presidential hopeful falsified his date of birth and said he (Atupele) was not fit to rule the country. Atupele described the remarks as defamatory.

But the case is scheduled to go for mediation.

The road to 2014 elections has seen intensive campaign by various contesting political parties.

During the opening of the conflict management training for political party leaders on 26 June 2013, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera asked parties to engage in positive politics where the competition is based on policies and manifestoes.

He warned against negative rhetoric which could degenerate into violence if not properly managed.

Justice Mbendera implored the leaders to influence their members to refrain from acts of violence or uttering statements that can easily bring about unnecessary tension that could affect the process of free and fair elections.

So far, Atupele will stand for the UDF ,  Lazarous Chakwera will run on MCP ticket whereas President Joyce Banda and Peter Mutharika will lead People’s Party (PP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) respectively.

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