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Malawi: Lawyers join media, condemn govt. directive

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has joined Malawi media practitioners in condemning government for preventing private radio and television stations from covering important events live, describing it as illegal.
Director of information in the ministry of information and civic education Chikumbutso Mtumodzi wrote a circular last week where he declared that government has designated state-owned broadcasters Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Television Malawi (TVM) as the only media institutions mandated to conduct live coverage for very important functions to avoid compromising quality.

Appeal to review decision

The Malawi Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has since appealed to the Ministry of Information to review its decision.

"Much as we agree with the ministry that broadcasters should strive for quality, we feel the right procedure would have been for the ministry to ask private broadcasters to improve the quality of their productions, including live coverage of VVIP events," said Aubrey Chikungwa MISA-Malawi national director.

MISA Malawi has serious reservations

In a statement Chikungwa said MISA Malawi has serious reservations with the directive because it is tantamount to violation of media freedom and freedom of expression as provided for by Section 36 of the Constitution which stipulates that: "...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".

"Further, the directive denies members of the public who rely on private broadcasters the right to information and the right to know. Limiting live coverage of VVIP functions to state media alone clearly denies information to listeners of private radio stations that broadcast such events live," he said.

Quality, for people to judge

In an interview with The Nation, one of the country's dailies, MLS President John Gift Mwakhwawa observed that the directive is an infringement on people's rights of access to information.

He argued that government cannot ban any such coverage by a private radio station because people have a choice on which media to follow because quality is for the people themselves to judge and not government.

About Gregory Gondwe

Gregory Gondwe is a Malawian journalist who started writing in 1993. He is also a media consultant assisting several international journalists pursuing assignments in Malawi. He holds a Diploma and an Intermediate Certificate in Journalism among other media-related certificates. He can be contacted on . Follow him on Twitter at @Kalipochi.