Journalists in Malawi are celebrating muted World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) amid coronavirus attack fears but media watchdog Misa-Malawi has strongly condemned the rising cases of scribes abuse in the country.
This year’s WPFD is being celebrated under the theme ‘Journalism without fear or favour’.
Misa Malawi says in a statement that the 2020 WPFD theme is a call to action on media independence, a key element in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Media.
The scribes’ professional body says the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) is still used as a propaganda tool and mouthpiece of the party in power despite provisions for its independence under the Communications Act of 2016.
“MBC fails to safeguard the tenets of media freedom and independence and continues to be partisan in its coverage largely due to political pressure. “We call on President Mutharika and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to ensure its independence,” says the statement from Misa Malawi.
Misa Malawi also says that access to information is a key component of media freedom and freedom of expression, saying Malawians cannot effectively enjoy free expression without access to accurate and credible information. “This right is even more critical with the outbreak of Covid-19 and proliferation of fake news.
“The Minister of Information and Communications Technology needs to set a date for the commencement of the Access to Information Act for Malawians to fully enjoy the right to free expression and other fundamental human rights which cannot be realised without access to information,” says the statement.
Misa Malawi also says that in 2019, MACRA banned live broadcasts and phone-in programmes, largely seen by the sector as a government attempt to gag private media critical of the state.
“We also have reports that MACRA has been asking some stations to send them programmes for vetting before broadcasts.
“MACRA needs to be independent to promote and defend media independence and professionalism,” says the statement. Misa Malawi says the government should stop using MACRA as a tool to silence and intimidate independent broadcasters in the country.
“There broadcasting media regulatory framework should not be abused to stop broadcasting information which is in public interest,” says the scribes’ body.
Misa Malawi says as journalists celebrate this day, the government, the corporate world and every citizen has a responsibility to ensure media independence and professionalism. It says that the government and the corporate world should respect journalistic autonomy and stop subjecting the sector to undue political and commercial pressure.
Misa Malawi says the general public and all stakeholders should respect media freedom and consider journalists as partners in development.
It urges journalists and media outlets to embrace a culture of professionalism and accountability.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :