The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Malawi Chapter) has commended President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance government for fostering the building of a relationship of trust between the media and government.
In an End of the Year statement signed by MISA Malawi Chairperson Golden Matonga and the institute’s director, Aubrey Chikungwa, the media body acknowledges the strides the incumbent administration has made in ensuring that journalists are operating in a free environment.
But Matonga and Chikungwe were quick to point out some of the hostilities journalists were subjected to in the course of their work in the year gone by.
The institute said it registered eight cases in which over 10 journalists were attacked.
“Sadly, no perpetrator was either arrested or prosecuted for such crimes against journalists. The perpetrators of violence against journalists in the year under review were diverse and included police officers, political party supporters, university students, football club officials and supporters and ordinary members of the general public. These attacks, in whatever form, instill fear in journalists and promotes self-censorship, which is retrogressive in a democracy,” it said.
This notwithstanding, Matonga and Chikungwa commended President Chakwera for taking decisive steps to ensuring that journalists are operating in an environment devoid of fear any attack.
“The year 2023 was to a large extent positive in building a relationship of trust between the media and government. President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera once again invited the media to a breakfast engagement as part of the celebrations to mark the 2023 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD). The engagement provided a rare opportunity to discuss broader issues affecting the media and what needs to be done to improve the media operating environment,” reads the statement in part.
It adds, “As a follow up to the breakfast engagement, State House Communications Team also met MISA Malawi leadership to discuss issues of mutual concern and explore workable ideas to improve the relationship between government and the media. Among others, the meeting looked at how to improve access to the Presidency through the media and also how to ensure a professional and informed media sector to facilitate national development.”
MISA Malawi has also mentioned the roundtable discussions with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), which included a call for review of broadcasting license fees to be in Malawi Kwacha and not the United States dollar, as another key positive development for 2023.
The statement says during the discussions, MACRA promised to revisit the legal framework and ensure a conducive environment for broadcasters, the majority of whom are failing to pay the fees and have accumulated arrears.
“Ending the year on a positive note, on December 7, the National Assembly passed the Data Protection Bill, which seeks to provide a regulatory framework for the processing and transfer of personal data. We celebrated the passing of the Bill as it means, among others, protection of information/data for Malawians, including journalists and sources of information, from unwarranted access. Data protection is very important in promoting media freedom and freedom of expression, key rights that MISA promotes,” say Matonga and Chikungwa.
But the duo expressed disappointment with what they described as ‘persistent and unwarranted hostility towards journalists’ in the year gone by.