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Speech by MISA Malawi Chairperson during 2022 MISA Malawi Annual Media Awards Gala Dinner 

3 May, 2022
We also see a growing tendency of high-ranking officials, including cabinet ministers, intimidating journalists in the course of duty.

Speech by MISA Malawi Chairperson Teresa Ndanga during 2022 MISA Malawi Annual Media Awards Gala Dinner 

May 7, 2022

Sunbird Chintheche

Nkhatabay, Malawi

Minister of Information and Digitalisation, Honourable Gospel Kazako

Keynote Speaker, Director General of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority ( MACRA), Mr. Daudi Suleiman

Acting UN Resident Coordinator, Shigegi Komatsubara

The Attorney General, Mr. Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda

The European Union Head of Corporation, Ivor Hoefkens

Officer in Charge of Nkhatabay Police, Assistant Commissioner of Police, James Kadadzera

MISA Malawi National Director, Aubrey Chikungwa and the entire National Governing Council

Media Council of Malawi Executive Director, Moses Kaufa and the entire National Governing Council

Media managers

Colleagues in the media

Ladies and gentlemen

This has been a very special week to the journalism profession in Malawi. Our sector joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) on Tuesday May 3, 2022 with a breakfast meeting with the President. Unprecedented.

Locally, we are celebrating this year’s World Press Freedom Day this weekend in Mzuzu and Nkhatabay where we have had a number of activities including a freedom march on Friday morning and a panel discussion Friday evening.

This morning, we started the day with a relay race from Mzuzu to Nkhatabay where four teams participated and a team from Moyale Barracks won. The media had their own team and was not just able to complete the 50-kilometre distance but competed against some of the most brilliant runners and came third.

We are here this evening to cap it all with recognition of some of the most brilliant pieces of journalism. As we will be wrapping it all tonight, allow me to say again, Happy World Press Freedom Day.

Earlier today, as I watched our runners take pictures while wearing t-shirts that bore the World Press Freedom Day message, it struck me that journalism was one of the most widely celebrated professions; one of the few with special celebratory days designated by the United Nations.

This speaks volumes of a profession that many rate to be very low ranking of what they call rewarding professions, a profession that usually pays lesser than other profession, a profession that the powerful continuously seek to control and one that others attack willy-nilly; most times with no consequences.

It donned on me that all this is because of how powerful journalism is; so those who are uncomfortable with it resort to arbitrary arrests, summons, cyber-attacks, physical and verbal attacks and now just emerging surveillance. Despite the existence of laws that protect journalists and guarantee press freedom, we are worried that authorities continue to side with the perpetrators as the attacks continue with impunity.

We are worried Honourable Minister that we have seen a growing tendency of institutionalization of state intimidation on journalists through the application of archaic and draconian laws.

We also see a growing tendency of high-ranking officials, including cabinet ministers, intimidating journalists in the course of duty. This is sad and uncalled for, especially where you have a President whose public pronouncements have been nothing but commitment to upholding press freedom and freedom of expression among others.

Since January last year, MISA Malawi has registered 10 media violations, ten of which involved the police. Just like in 2020, no one has been held accountable for these crimes.

On the freedom of expression side, six citizens have been arrested since January 2021, after their views on social media were deemed to be insults to the president.

Quite a surprise because the one who is said to have been insulted in all these cases just told us during the breakfast meeting that he fully understands the concept of freedom of expression as is enshrined in the Malawi constitution; that sometimes people will say things that offend you.

Honourable Minister, the theme for this year’s celebration of the World Press Freedom Day, journalism under digital siege, strikes a cord with the recent event we have seen in Malawi; arrest of journalist Gregory Gondwe to force him to review sources; confiscation of equipment used by the journalist and eventual hacking of the platform for Investigative Journalism.

Officials will say journalists in Malawi are under no surveillance, but these events tell a different story from that rhetoric. I can’t think of any success story for any government that muzzles the press, we have seen the trend even here at home. The media space ought to be free and that is why the UN declared the World Press Freedom Day and also why this country, saw it fit to have a section within the Malawi constitution to protect a free press.

As I conclude, I wish to thank all partners for the support you have rendered to us during these celebrations. You will get to know ours sponsors this year’s during the awards presentation ceremony. Allow me in a special way, to thank the president who has donated a total of MK2,000,000; half of which was already announced during the breakfast meeting. The Vice President has also contributed a total of MK1,500,000 toward our celebrations.

To all winners tonight, congratulations in advance. Continue with the good work.

Honourable Minister, I thank you.

About MISA

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was founded in 1992. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.

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