Malawian journalists have started celebrating World Press Freedom Day, which falls on 3 May every year. Organisers of the event, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Malawi), said a tight budget has forced them to organise the celebration in three parts. The first event took place on 24 April 2010 in Mzuzu and will be followed by a Lilongwe-based event on 1 May 2010.
The main event that will include marching, a social football match, debate and a gala with award presentations will be held in Blantyre on 3 May 2010.
At the Mzuzu commemoration, jointly organised by MISA-Malawi and the Nyika Media Club and financed by the US government, the event's guest of honour was John Warner, public affairs officer of the US embassy to Malawi.
Human rights also under threat
During the debate Warner observed in his opening remarks that where media freedom is in jeopardy, all other human rights are also under threat.
“A free media is essential to democracy and it fosters transparency and accountability, both of which are prerequisites for sustained economic development,” he said.
He added that the US government is championing this cause through its diplomatic efforts and through its exchange and assistance programs, and as demonstrated during the event, they work in partnership with non-governmental organisations and directly with members of the media.
“Press freedom truly does touch every corner of a democratic society, and it opens doors to expanded economic and political development, and indeed to possibilities as yet unimagined,” he said.
Said Sara Munthali, MISA-MALAWI chapter: “When the media recognises that they have an important role to play in the development of any nation then it can excel in its various journalistic roles of giving a voice to the voiceless, holding government accountable, exposing corruption and helping build public consensus to effect social change,” she said.