Misa, CJP commends JB govt for repealing Malawi news censorship law

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter  and Canadian based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have commended the Joyce Banda administration for repealing Section 46 of the Penal Code, permitting the government to ban media outlets that information minister declares contrary to public interest.

The draconian law was put in place in November 2010  during the DPP regime under late president Bingu wa Mutharika and drew the wrath of both local and international civil society and human rights defenders who petitioned late Mutharika not to support the amendment to no avail.

Commenting on the repeal, MISA Malawi Chairperson Anthony Kasunda described the repeal as ‘dawn of a new era.’

Kasunda: Malawi media grateful

“This is what we wanted. The repeal is a sign of maturity and commitment to constitutionalism by the new administration,” said Kasunda.

Kasunda commended the Members of Parliament for taking a bold step to support the government’s move to repeal section 46.

CPJ also said in a statement that it welcomes the repeal of the news censorship law.

“We applaud parliament’s decision to repeal this draconian legislation, which would have institutionalized censorship,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We urge the government to build on this by ensuring the press can work freely and without fear of reprisal.”

The repeal follows a call from President Joyce Banda for Parliament to repeal laws that are repressive and deny Malawians their constitutional right to freely express themselves and to seek and receive information without fear or hindrance.

Banda made the call when she opened the 43rd Session of Parliament in the Capital Lilongwe on Friday May 18, 2012.

Banda said: “I’m calling on parliament to repeal all repressive laws that were enacted in the previous regime. Such laws have tarnished the image of our country to the outside world.”

So far, only Section 46 of the Penal Code has been repealed.

There are, however, other pieces of legislation that are inconsistent with Section 35 and 36 of the Constitution which provide for free speech and media freedom respectively, the media watchdog noted.

These laws include Sections of the Protected Places and Names Act, Sections of the Police Act, Official Secrets Act and Censorship Act.

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