MISA Malawi has noted with concern the revocation of Rainbow Television’s licence by Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA).
On Friday, June 10, 2022, MACRA Director General Daud Suleiman announced in a statement the revocation of the station’s licence over failure to pay annual licence fees.
MISA Malawi finds the revocation disturbing considering that there had already been ongoing negotiations between the two parties. At the time of the announcement of the licence revocation, Rainbow Television had paid, in two instalments, almost half of the required amount. MACRA has therefore announced the revocation on the basis of the remaining amount.
While MISA Malawi does not condone default on broadcasting licence fees, we find the revocation of Rainbow Television’s licence to be ill-timed and can easily be construed as an attempt by the government to silence critical voices. The issue of unpaid licence fees could have easily been resolved through mutual negotiations.
We advise media outlets in similar situation to engage the regulator before things get out of hand.
The move by MACRA will deny Malawians access to relevant information at this critical time President Lazarus Chakwera and his administration are championing implementation of the Access to Information law. MACRA’s decision will put Rainbow Television workers out of jobs at a time the government says it is determined to create more and more jobs.
MISA Malawi believes that the best approach would have been for MACRA to engage the management of Rainbow Television and resolve the matter amicably.
MISA Malawi would, therefore, like to appeal to MACRA to rescind its decision and allow for a progressive means of resolving the issue.
We believe that such a move would align with a number of the current administration’s progressive policies including having a more open government for a more informed citizenry and creation of more jobs. It would also help clear out the impression that the government has started taking systematic steps to suffocate the media and stifle freedom of expression.