News / Africa

Malawi Activists Worry About President's Refusal to Sign Press Accord

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks to the media next to President Joyce Banda of Malawi after his meeting with African leaders at the White House in Washington, March 28, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks to the media next to President Joyce Banda of Malawi after his meeting with African leaders at the White House in Washington, March 28, 2013
TEXT SIZE - +
Lameck Masina
— Malawi President Joyce Banda has refused to endorse the 2007 Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for a repeal of criminal defamation and ‘insult’ laws in order to protect freedom of the press. Numerous press freedom and civil society organizations have endorsed the declaration, including President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Representatives of the media watchdog known as the National Media Institute for Southern Africa requested President Banda sign the declaration during an audience with the president last week at Sanjika Palace in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

National Media Institute for Southern Africa chairperson, Anthony Kasunda, said the president's refusal is a lost opportunity for Malawi.

“It was disappointing because this has happened at a time when the president has emphasized that she is a true friend of the media," Kasunda said, "and she already started very well in promoting media freedom in the country by repealing section 46 of the penal code, which gave powers to the minister of information to ban any publication deemed not to publishing in the public interest.

Press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, 2013.Press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, 2013.
x
Press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, 2013.
Press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, 2013.
We thought that was a step in the right direction and now that she has refused to commit her government to repealing other insult laws by refusing to sign this declaration, it is worrisome,” he added.

Kasunda also said the rejection is not a huge surprise to the country’s media outlets, coming a few days after President Banda criticized the local media over its coverage of her administration.

“The rejection was not much of the surprise because during our audience she hinted on that, saying that she will not sign the declaration ‘because the media is always insulting me’ and they do not appreciate the good thing that she is doing [in promoting press freedom]," he remarked.

Kasunda said despite the rejection, the battle is not over.

“We still think there is still room for lobbying, and that’s what we are doing because eventually we still need commitment from the highest office," he explained. "We still need this declaration to be signed. So we are continuing with our lobbying so that eventually the president appends her signature on this declaration.”

Some human rights activists also regretted President Banda’s decision.  Crispin Sibande, a human rights lawyer, told local radio Capital FM that apart from seeking the signature of the president, the media can still explore other avenues such as the Malawi Law Commission, that would see laws infringing on press freedom being amended or repealed.

“What I would recommend is that the media now should focus on other branches in government like parliament and judiciary," Sibande said, "because if you look at our constitution, our judiciary has a responsibility to enforce human rights in this country under section 46 of the Malawi Constitution. Most of the laws that the media are calling for liberalization [liberalizing] are laws that are supposed to be subjected to the [Malawi] constitution.”

Since taking over the government after President Bingu wa Mutharika's death last April, Banda’s administration has repealed Section 46 of the Penal Code, which gave powers to a minister to ban any publication and remove value added tax (VAT) on newspapers.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid