MISA Malawi appeals with parliament to reject communications bill

MISA Malawi appeals with parliament to reject communications bill

The Media Institute of Southern Africa Malawi Chapter (MISA-Malawi) has appealed to members of Parliament to reject a draft Communications Bill scheduled to be tabled during the current sitting of Parliament.

In a statement issued in November 2015 and signed by MISA-Malawi Chairperson Thom Khanje, the chapter notes that the Communications Bill, as forwarded to Parliament from Cabinet, contains significant changes that defeat the whole essence of reviewing the Communications Act of 1998. The Act is outdated and compromises the independence of the country’s communications regulatory authority and the state broadcaster – the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

“MISA-Malawi is disillusioned to learn that government has reversed stakeholders’ proposals in the draft Bill which removed the Head of State as the sole appointing authority for the boards and management of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

“The independence of both MACRA and MBC was key in the review of the Communications Act of 1998. Cabinet has effectively rendered the review process irrelevant by maintaining the State President as the sole appointing authority of board members and manager of the two institutions,” reads the statement in part.

The Communications Bill, as presented to cabinet, took into account emerging issues in the communications and broadcasting sector as well as the need to align regulations in the sector with progressive democratic principles as enshrined in Malawi’s Republican Constitution and international instruments.

Government spokesperson Jappie Mhango is on record saying the changes were made to remove the inconsistencies between the draft bill and the republican Constitution.

“When we are amending our laws, there is need to align them to the Constitution. The Constitution gives powers to the President to make appointments, so what is required is to amend the Constitution,” Mhango is quoted to have said in The Daily Times of Tuesday, November 17.

The Communications Bill that Cabinet has changed underwent several consultative processes and was finalized with input from different stakeholders including representatives from the Law Commission, Ministry of Justice, Law Society, media sector and the academia among others.

MISA-Malawi has appealed to members of Parliament to reject the Bill as amended by Cabinet as it is not in line with recommendations from various stakeholders who were engaged during the drafting of the bill.

The chapter has also called on government to present to Parliament the original version of the bill as discussed and agreed to by all stakeholders.

For more information contact MISA Malawi chairperson Thom Khanje on mobile +265 888879 329 or e-mail: thomkhanje@yahoo.com or MISA Malawi National Director Aubrey Chikungwa on mobile +265999327311 or email info@misamalawi.org.