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
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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid