Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) has condemnned the harassment of journalists and independent media houses, especially by the police and other State agents in Malawi.
In a media statement which was issued on Monday, Panos views any harassment of the media reverses the gains the country had recorded in its quest for media freedom, culminating in the enactment of the Access to Information Act in 2016.
PSAf executive director, Lilian Saka Kiefer, reiterates that “journalism is not a crime” and emphasize that the media plays an important role in facilitating development at local, national and international level.
She said the media provides a platform for citizens to engage with each other on development issues of concern to them, and enables citizens to dialogue with duty bearers and other stakeholders, thereby contributing to improved participation of citizens in decision making.
“The media provides a reliable and effective channel for the flow of information between citizens, duty bearers and other stakeholders in the development process,” she said.
The Constitution of Malawi clearly provides for and guarantees media freedom. Section 37 of the Constitution states that all citizens have “the right of access to all information held by the State or any of its organs at any level of Government in so far as such information is required for the exercise of his rights”.
On Friday, police officers beat-up two journalists from Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), an independent broadcasting media house.
Zodiak announced that the police had beaten up two of their reporters Musase Cheyo and Towera Mkandawire “as they went about doing their job covering the fracas between the police and vendors”.
The beatings resulted in the two media practitioners being taken to Mzuzu Health Centre for treatment.
“We are taken aback that this is happening at a time when the ink has not even dried on the President’s signature on the Access to Information Act, which among other things has clear provisions for journalists to access and disseminate public information,”she said.
Instead, Kiefer said as Panos they appeal to the government of Malawi to expedite the implementation of the Access to Information Act, which they hope will address some of the challenges journalists face in accessing information, particularly information held by public entities.
“We also appeal to the Malawi Police Service to sensitize their officers on the role of journalists in the country’s development, and the importance of media freedom in the country’s development.
“We also encourage our partners in the media sector to stand strong and unite against this growing harassment. As a media support and communication for development organisation, we will continue to engage with the government and other stakeholders in Malawi to ensure that such harassment of journalists does not recur,” she said.
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