Today, Tuesday, September 13, 2022, MISA Malawi appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communications at the Parliament Building in Lilongwe.
The purpose of the meeting was for the Chapter to highlight developments in the media and seek solutions to some challenges the Malawi media is going through.
During the meeting, the issue of revocation of broadcasting licences by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) took centre stage.
MISA Malawi reiterated its stand that the revocation of licences is too drastic and can be construed as a systematic violation of freedom of expression in the country.
We acknowledged that the broadcasters, as Malawians in other businesses, have an obligation to pay the licence and other business fees. We, however, implored that instead of shutting down stations there is a need for MACRA to engage the stations for a win-win agreement.
As an example, MISA Malawi cited the license fees in other sectors such as in the tourism sector where the biggest hotels pay about MK500, 000 and the same fees apply for the biggest private hospitals in the medical sector. In the broadcasting sector, the fees are pegged in US dollars and are ten times higher than the cited sectors at USD 5000.
MISA Malawi highlighted that the general economic crisis the country is experiencing has not spared the media sector as advertising, the main source of revenue for most media businesses, is dwindling.
We recommended that MACRA should also play its mandate of growing the broadcasting sector by, among others, utilizing the Universal Service Fund (USF) to cushion and develop the sector.
MISA Malawi emphasized that the media business is more than profit-oriented as it facilitates the Constitutionally enshrined rights and freedoms such as freedom of expression (section 35), press freedom (section 36), access to information (section 37).
We also notified the Committee that our Regional Office in Harare, Zimbabwe petitioned President Lazarus Chakwera on the matter and that on Wednesday, September 7, 2022 we had a virtual meeting with MACRA officials on the same.
Vice Chairperson for the Media, Information and Communications Committee Honourable Susan Dossi said the committee is not happy that stations are being closed as people in the Constituencies depend on radio and television stations to access information.
The Committee assured us of its commitment to engage different stakeholders on the challenges affecting the media sector and ensure that the media industry develops and not shrink.