MISA Malawi joins the rest of the world in celebrating the 2021 World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) with a call for government to end threats, attacks and arbitrary arrests against journalists.
2021 WPFD is being celebrated under theme ‘Information as a public good’.
MISA Malawi however notes that journalists who are supposed to be a source of reliable information are under unwarranted attack from authorities, state institutions and sometimes, the general public.
Since January 2020, 20 journalists have been physically assaulted, threatened, arbitrarily detained and questioned in the line of duty, a development that threatens the Constitutionally guaranteed media freedom.
These attacks do not only create fear in journalists but have the potential of compromising the quality of information, as they force journalists to self-censor.
Unfortunately, government has failed to bring to book and prosecute any of the attackers, despite having an obligation to ensure safety and security of every Malawian. Perpetrators of crimes against journalists continue committing such crimes as they seem to be immune to prosecution.
MISA Malawi would also like to urge journalists and media houses to be responsible in their work and serve public interest and not political or corporate interest. The media must strive to be ethical in accessing and disseminating information.
On this 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration that birthed the World Press Freedom Day, we also pray for economic freedom for the media in Malawi. While we acknowledge the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s economy, the Malawi Government needs to foster an economic environment that effectively supports the sustainability and viability of the media sector. Media outlets cannot provide reliable information when they are struggling in the prevailing weak macro-economic environment.
The economic challenges are also a wake-up call for media companies to think of innovative ways of sustaining their operations and providing reliable information to their audience.
The 2021 World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity for the media in Malawi to self-reflect and take up a leading role in the fight against disinformation, misinformation and hate speech by providing accurate and hate free information all the time.
On this special day, we also call upon media houses to introduce in-house policies to protect women from sexual abuses at the workplace. We acknowledge the recent revelations by a Malawi Human Rights Commission investigation that found former Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Director General, Aubrey Sumbuleta, guilty of sexually harassing some female employees.
While the investigation and ongoing court case on the matter are likely to shape the fight against sexual harassment at the workplace, we urge media houses to establish reliable workplace systems and policies that would encourage victims to open up and the institutions to take remedial action that assures victims of access to justice.
MISA Malawi wishes you a happy World Press Freedom Day.