Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 17 (of 30)
Political Environment: 20 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 18 (of 30)
Total Score: 55 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Freedom of speech and of the press are constitutionally guaranteed in Malawi, although these rights are sometimes restricted in practice. On April 13, 2007, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) banned all private media outlets from broadcasting political rallies live without prior permission from the MACRA. This move was allegedly to curb the airing of "hate messages." While there was no evidence given to support the accusation that this was taking place, the move primarily targeted Capital Radio, Joy Radio, and Zodiac Broadcasting Station. However, in July the High Court struck down the MACRA order as unconstitutional when a lawsuit was filed by Joy Radio. Later in October, MACRA appeared to retaliate for the ruling by ordering Joy TV – a affiliate of Joy Radio which stood to be the nation's first private television station – to immediately cease all its broadcasts until the station could obtain the necessary licenses. Tailos Bakili, the station manager claimed that they did indeed have all relevant licenses.

The government does not exercise overt censorship, but freedom of expression in Malawi is threatened in more subtle ways, often resulting in self-censorship. One journalist was reportedly attacked in 2007. Dickson Kashoti, a reporter for the private Daily Times, was physically attacked by Joseph Njobvuyalema, a Member of Parliament over an article that had been critical of him. Njobvuyalema was later fired from his position and sentenced to three months in prison for assault.

The print media represent a broad spectrum of opinion; 10 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 the ban on Joy TV, state-owned Television Malawi – which generally adheres to a pro-government bias – is now the country's only television station. In 2007, the Malawi parliament again approved only half of the funding for the MBC and Television Malawi, accusing the two state broadcasters of bias towards 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, the high cost of taxes and import duties imposed by the state threaten the economic viability of many independent commercial broadcasters. There are no restrictions on access to the internet, although with access at less than 0.5 percent of the population, it is not a major source of news.

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