Freedom of the Press 2009 - Malawi
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Malawi, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b27420628.html [accessed 5 December 2016]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 17 (of 30)
Political Environment: 21 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 18 (of 30)
Total Score: 56 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
Freedoms of speech and of the press are constitutionally guaranteed, although these rights are sometimes restricted in practice. The government has occasionally used libel and other laws to put pressure on journalists.
The government does not exercise overt censorship, but freedom of expression in Malawi is threatened in more subtle ways, often resulting in self-censorship.
In February, James Mphande, editor of the private newspaper Daily Times, was arrested after publishing a story that quoted allegations by opposition leader John Tembo concerning government plans to rig the 2009 elections. Mphande and the writer of the article, Mike Chipalasa – who was also arrested – were charged with "publishing false news likely to lead to a breach of public order." Both journalists were released on bail after questioning.
In August, the government banned live broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings on account of the "sensitive" language used by members. The Media Institute of Southern Africa criticized the ban, calling it an infringement on freedom of the media.
In November, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) revoked the operating license of private radio station, Joy Radio, on the grounds that it was owned by a politician in violation of the Communications Act. After 30 days, however, the Supreme Court of Appeal allowed the station to resume broadcasting pending judicial review of the case.
The print media present a broad spectrum of opinion; 11 independent newspapers are available, and of the 8 major papers in circulation, 6 are privately owned and most are editorially independent. The state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) operates the country's 2 largest radio stations, and there are approximately 15 private radio stations with more limited coverage operating mainly in urban areas. Following a ban on Joy TV in 2007, state-owned Television Malawi – which generally exhibits a progovernment bias – is now the country's only television station.
The opposition-controlled parliament continued to withhold funding for MBC and Television Malawi, accusing them bias in favor of the government and the ruling party. At the same time, independent radio broadcasters receive no support from the state, even through advertising revenue. As all equipment must be imported and paid for in U.S. dollars, the high cost of taxes and import duties imposed by the state threaten the economic viability of many independent commercial broadcasters.
There are no government restrictions on the internet, although with only 1 percent of the population able to access the medium, it is not a major news source.