Freedom of the Press 2010 - Malawi
|Publication Date||30 September 2010|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - Malawi, 30 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca44d8c34.html [accessed 31 January 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 17
Political Environment: 21
Economic Environment: 18
Total Score: 56
|Total Score, Status||54,PF||55,PF||53,PF||55,PF||56,PF|
Freedoms of speech and the press are constitutionally guaranteed but sometimes restricted in practice. The government has occasionally used libel and other laws to put pressure on journalists.
In February 2009, the Malawian Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) temporarily closed the Mzimba community radio station and arrested its manager on the grounds that the station did not comply with regulations as stipulated in the Communications Act. However, sources from Mzimba claimed that the station had been ordered off the air by a cabinet minister who was unhappy with its criticism of the government. The manager, Sam Lwara, was eventually charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of peace and released on bail. The case had yet to be resolved at year's end.
MACRA and Joy Radio were involved in a number of legal tussles during 2009. The police in Blantyre closed down the radio station following allegations that it was airing campaign material outside the stipulated election period, and several journalists were arrested. The station was off the air during the May presidential and parliamentary elections, and only reopened weeks after the polls. Since then, Joy Radio has withdrawn programs deemed confrontational by the government. In October, the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered MACRA to pay Joy Radio about 13.8 million kwachas (US$98,000) in compensation for loss of business during the closure.
The government does not exercise overt censorship, but more subtle threats to freedom of expression often result in self-censorship, especially in government-controlled media.
In September 2009, two reporters with the Blantyre Newspapers Limited group were harassed by police for photographing city workers as they dismantled unlicensed vendors' stalls.
The print media present a broad spectrum of opinion; 11 independent newspapers are available, and of the eight major papers in circulation, six are privately owned and most are editorially independent. The state-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) operates the country's two 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 in 2009, accusing them of favoring the government and the ruling party. 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 threaten the economic viability of many independent broadcasters.
There are no government restrictions on the internet, although only around 4.6 percent of the population is able to access the medium.