Malawi papers say ‘still room for improvement’ for press freedom

Press Freedom Day, which Malawi  celebrated on May 3 on Thursday, has dominated the country’s two daily newspapers with editorial comments focusing on freedom of expression and calling for deep reflection.

MBC is turned into a propaganda broadcaster

“Celebrating press freedom cautiously,” was the headline in The Daily Times editorial , which pointed out that that the country  celebrate Press Freedom Day  with a measure of hope for no journalist is in jail and no media house has so far been closed for simply doing their job.

The paper  pointed out that such a relative conducive environment for the Malawi media does not happen by chance.

“It demonstrates the government’s level of commitment to ensuring free press and freedom of expression which is enshrined in the Constitution,” reads the editorial.

This is evidenced by media watchdog, Reporters Without Boarders’ (RSF) index released last Wednesday, indicating that Malawi has, on freedom to inform rankings, improved from position 70 to now 64 out of 180 countries, the paper noted.

Adding tha the increase has been attributed to President Peter Mutharika’s passing and assenting of the Access to Information Law.

However, the paper refuse to throw caution to the wind, saying   there are still some subtle ways which free speech and freedom of expression is been muzzled.

“Access to information in higher corridors of power remains a nightmare due to traces of executive arrogance.”

It said there are many public officers who give a black-out on sections of the media deemed too critical and that state machinery has found “a systematic way of stifling the media through economic sanctions using state agencies and parastatals.”

The media giant said while they commend the country’s leadership for allowing people to criticise it in whatever way, the evident lack of tolerance on such critics suggest that there is still a long way to go to ultimate media freedom.

“Let us work towards genuine free press,” is  the headline in The Nation editorial comment, saying government is expected to harness and safeguard free press because, to a certain extent, it is a hallmark of the country’s democracy.

The paper accuses Malawi Communication Regulatory  Authority (Macra)bod failing to project itself as an objective, apolitical, impartial and independent  organisation for failing to act on public broadcaster MBC over hate-reporting and propaganda.

“How can free press flourish in a country where government continues to abuse MBC to vilify the opposition and unleash State machinery  to either silenced or slap punitive  taxes on media houses, thereby restrict their growth? Such moves are in sharp contrast to the spirit of free press. Infact  they smack political intolerance  on the part of the State,” reads the papers editorial.

Both papers agree that there is still room for improvement , considering that police and ruling party  zealots continue to harass journalists during State functions.

Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi has told reporters that Malawi’s media freedom needs to be protected through professionalism and understanding on both the media practitioners and the government.

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