Barring reporters from covering public functions is a violation of the right to know

MISA Malawi has noted with concern a growing trend of barring journalists and the media from covering public functions.

The Chapter would like to remind individuals and organizations that the media has a constitutional obligation and right to inform Malawians and any attempts to block the sector from performing that function is unconstitutional and retrogressive.

The Chapter has received several reports of public bodies and individuals banning the media from covering public deliberations and functions.

Last week the Chapter received reports that the Phalombe District Council had banned reporters from covering Council proceedings. The media was also awash with reports that the media had been banned from covering the public sector reform meetings which were taking place at Bingu International Convention Centre in August.

In July MISA Malawi issued a statement over reports that the media had been barred from covering the infamous maize gate case involving former Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda.

These developments are unconstitutional and retrogressive for Malawi and ought to be condemned in the strongest manner possible.

Section 44 (2) of the Malawi Constitution is clear that limitations on the exercise of any rights and freedoms provided for in the Constitution should be those prescribed by law, which are reasonable, recognised by international human rights standards and necessary in an open and democratic society.

None of the cases at hand justify the actions by authorities to ban or bar reporters and the media from performing their duties. None of the cases meet any of the conditions set by the Constitution.

MISA Malawi would therefore like to appeal to stakeholders to explore other means of resolving misunderstandings with journalists or the media at large. The sector has clearly defined processes and procedures of dealing with irresponsible and wayward journalists and would like to encourage people to engage MISA or the Media Council of Malawi whenever disagreements with journalists or the media arise.

MISA Malawi does not support sensational, malicious and half-baked reporting and would appreciate being engaged to deal with such cases.
Banning or barring reporters is not an answer or remedy for cases where a journalist or media outlet has misrepresented information or facts.

MISA Malawi believes that barring journalists from covering public functions is an attack on media freedom and Malawian’s right to know and we would like to call on all citizens and organizations to desist from the practice.

We all have a duty to safeguard and protect our Constitution and constitutional guarantees on media freedom and freedom of expression are central for the advancement of our nascent democracy. Let us all protect and defend our Constitution.

Signed
Teresa Ndanga
Chairperson, MISA Malawi

Media contacts

Teresa Ndanga, MISA Malawi Chairsperson on +265 999 247 911 or  Teresa.temweka@gmail.com

Aubrey Chikungwa, National Director: 265 999 327 311 or info@misamalawi.org

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