Malawi’s new President Peter Mutharika plans to next week meet with journalists from all media houses in the country, including online Nyasa Times as Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Friday, according to Ministry of Information.
Secretary for Information Ministry, Chimwemwe Banda said in an invitation that the presidential interface will be “an opportunity for the media to interact with the President on various issues pertinent to the [media] industry and the country.”
Government is sponsoring K30, 000 allowance and accommodation for journalists coming outside Blantyre, according to Banda.
President Mutharika faces economic challenges following donors withholding aid in reaction to a growing scandal over government graft known as Cashgate.
Malawi has relied heavily on foreign aid since independence and since 40 percent of country ’s budget comes from international donors.
Journalists including the Nyasa Times have welcomed the presidential interface, as a good idea as long as the media practitioners don’t lose sight of their agenda that they expect from government to table Access to Information Bill in parliament and President to sign the ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ that urges governments in Africa to abolish “insult laws” and set free press high on the agenda.
The ‘Table Mountain Declaration’ was issued following a World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.
The media has been urging government to expedite the adoption of the Access to Information Bill and also protect journalists from harassment and arbitrary arrests.
The Malawi Cabinet in February approved an access to information policy, setting the stage for introduction of ATI legislation.
Recently Malawian Minister of Information and Civic Education Kondwani Nankhumwa said he will soon present an access to information bill.