Free Expression & the Law
The right to free expression is a fundamental human right outlined in International Law. However, most societies would agree there are types of expression that are not acceptable and which conflict with other human rights, such as promoting hate speech.
For this reason, Governments use laws to limit freedom of expression if it conflicts with other human rights, such as the protection of the rights or reputations of others, national security, public order, public health and morals. Unfortunately, governments, private institutions and individuals around the world can abuse such limitations, using legislation and the judicial system unjustly to control expression and quash opposing views.
MISA Malawi, as any MISA Chapter across southern Africa, currently operates based on a three year strategic plan that focuses on two broad thematic areas, namely Media Monitoring and Research and Advocacy Campaigns. The Advocacy component dwells on three main areas namely Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Campaign, Broadcasting Diversity – under which NAMISA campaigns for a three tier system of broadcasting i.e. community, commercial and public, and finally campaign for the repeal of insult laws.
On Advocacy Campaigns, MISA Malawi is advocating for Access to Information legislation and pushing for transformation of State Broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), from State to a public Service Broadcaster – both with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). The Access to Information support from OSISA has helped MISA Malawi, in partnership with the Ministry of Information, to develop the National Policy on ATI which was duly approved by Cabinet early in 2014.
Hence, MISA Malawi is championing the campaign for the enactment into law and implementation of the Access to Information (ATI) bill. Section 37 of the Malawi Constitution provides for access to information. The framers of the Constitution however made this right to access information subject to an act of parliament but did not set a timeframe for the enactment of the law on access to information.
MISA Malawi has developed a list of all laws that limit free expression. The Chapter is currently lobbying all relevant stakeholders to have these laws reviewed or repealed.