Press Release Made by the Media Council of Malawi (MISA) against the gagging orders to private radio stations.

For Immediate Release

20th July, 2011

The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has
learnt with shock that the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority
(MACRA) has issued a ban stopping all private radio stations from
broadcasting live the demonstrations taking place in the country.

We also express our dismay over the cavalier and brutal manner the police
has handled the demonstrations and journalists covering these
demonstrations.

Reports indicate that MACRA has written all private radio stations
stopping them from airing the proceedings of the demonstrations in the
interest of national security.

We, however, believe that the ban on coverage of the demonstrations is
superfluous, unconstitutional and retrogressive as it takes away the right
of people to access information.

Sections 36 and 37 of the Republican Constitution are clear. Section 36
states:

˜The press shall have the right to report and publish freely, within
Malawi and abroad, and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for
access to public information˜and Section 37 says:

˜…every person shall 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.”

These two sections recognize the relevance of access to information for
people to make informed decisions. The ban on coverage of the
demonstrations clearly violates these provisions and is unwarranted and
imperious.

We, therefore, call upon MACRA to advise broadcasters to exercise
professionalism and sensitivity in broadcasting the demonstrations as
provided under the Communications Act, and not issue a ban.

We also call upon the Communications Regulatory body to respect the public’s
right to know and the media’s duty to provide the public with relevant,
accurate and important information to make informed decisions by
immediately lifting the ban.

In the same vein, we would like to appeal to Malawi Police Service to
respect journalists in their line of duty. Journalists have a key
responsibility to objectively report on proceedings of the demonstrations
without fear or intimidation from any quarter.

We have gathered that the police have brutally beaten one Journalist,
Rebecca Chimjeka of Joy Radio, who had to receive treatment at the
hospital.

Apart from Chimjeka, several other journalists were among the people who
were detained and whipped by Police in Lilongwe. Among the journalists is
Nation Publications Limited News Analyst Kondwani Munthali. The other
journalists are Leonard Sharra and Jacob Nankhonya of Blantyre Newspapers
Limited; and Yvonne Sundu, Isaac Kambwiri and Nathan Majawa.

MISA Malawi condemns this action and appeals to the police to protect both
civilians and journalists who are exercising their constitutional right to
express themselves through peaceful demonstrations.

Journalists are citizens with full rights and they are free to cover the
demonstrations as well as participate as the media is also aggrieved with
the amendment of Section 46 of the Penal Code and the enactment of the
infamous Injunctions Act.

We extend our support to journalists and fellow Malawians that have been
victimized by the authorities, and further appeal to them to exercise
caution and responsibility during these difficult times.

We would like to assure the media fraternity that MISA Malawi is taking up
the issues with authorities at MACRA and the Malawi Police Service as we
cannot condone what has happened today.

Signed

ANTHONY KASUNDA

MISA MALAWI ACTING CHAIRPERSON

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