Media Council of Malawi differs with MISA Malawi on revocation of radio licenses

Chairperson of the Media Council of Malawi (MCM) Wisdom Chimgwede has described as misplaced accusations that revocation of operating licenses for private radio stations is a deliberate ploy by the government to stifle freedom of the media in Malawi.

Chimgwede was reacting to an accusation by Chairperson of the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter, Tereza Ndanga, that the Tonse Alliance-led government is limiting media freedom, citing revocation of licenses for some media houses by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).

Ndanga made the sentiments last Thursday during activities to commemorate this year’s International Day of Democracy.

Ndanga: This conference is Ma to echo the voices of journalists worldwide that journalism is not a crime

The day was celebrated under a theme: ‘Focusing on the importance of media freedom to democracy, peace and attainment of sustainable development goals.’

Ndanga said MACRA should have sat down with the media houses to establish the reasons they are failing to pay their license fees and that revocation should have been the last option.

“At a time where we are seeing license revocations of radio stations, however the justification, yes, it is based on law and we are not saying broadcasters should not be paying their license fees but we are saying that there are a number of factors the regulator needed to consider before these license revocations,” she said.

Ndanga said the closure of radio stations is tantamount to stifling the right to free speech because radio is the widely used source of information in Malawi.

“There are broadcasters who stayed over four years without paying license fees and without going to MACRA to explain that they had challenges. Yes, there is also a goof on the part of MACRA for staying that long without ensuring that they get to the broadcasters to ensure that they are living their mandate so stifling the freedom of the media in this particular case in my view has got two problems from both parties,” he added.

But Chimgwede blamed owners of the affected media houses for failing to honour their obligations.

“A good number of media owners are politicians and that makes them put their political interest first before looking at the profession that the industry needs. We always call upon media owners to ensure they employ professional people and leave them to run the show,” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Information and Digitalization, Gospel Kazako said discussions are underway to ensure that media houses are operating according to the law and that the regulator does not operate in a way that would stifle media freedom.

Kazako, who is also Chief Government Spokesperson, admitted that the Tonse Alliance government benefited a lot from media freedom during the campaign time, saying it cannot, therefore, attempt to nip free speech.

“It is an issue that is being looked into and all the stakeholders are aware of the discussions that are going on to make sure that we find a common solution where the law has to work but at the same time making sure that we are creating a conducive environment for the media to thrive in this country,” he explains.

Recently UNESCO reported an 85 percent decline in press freedom in the world for the past five years with 455 journalists killed in the line of duty between 2016 and 2021.

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