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645 journalists risk losing jobs

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By Mandy Pondani

There are fears that at least 645 media jobs will be lost in the country following the decision by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) to revoke licences of broadcasters that have reportedly failed to comply with licence conditions, among other issues.

Macra has so far shut down Lilongwe-based Rainbow Television which has 57 journalists across the country. The regulator is also cracking down on postal and courier companies.

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Our triangulation of data obtained from the Media Council of Malawi (MCM) and Community Radios Association of Malawi (Cram) indicates that should Macra insist on the enforcement, 645 journalists will be rendered jobless.

The figure does not include camerapersons, technicians, marketers, sound engineers and support staff, among other workers.

Chairperson for the Media Institute of Southern Africa Malawi Teresa Ndanga says Macra’s move contradicts government’s own aspiration of creating jobs for Malawians.

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“The number of media stations on Macra’s list should also be telling of the number of jobs that will be lost under an administration that promised to create more.

“This number should also worry us as regards access to information for the citizenry, which ironically this administration gave Malawians to enjoy after operationalising the Access to Information law,” Ndanga said.

She said for years, media houses have been complaining that the license fees are on the higher side and asked the regulator to consider such concerns before acting on the licences.

Media analyst Horace Nyaka has accused Macra of concentrating on just its enforcement of regulatory requirements at the expense of the other mandate which is facilitating the provision of affordable communication services and encouraging citizens’ participation.

He corroborated Ndanga’s sentiments that in a country with an ailing economy like Malawi that is also still reeling from the impacts of Covid, it is unfair for Macra to peg the fees in United States dollars.

“If you are having almost all your licensees on the brink of having their licenses revoked, then there is definitely something big that is wrong and must be addressed. Macra’s dividend to government is never in US dollars, but they see it fine imposing the fees in that currency,” Nyaka said.

But Macra Director- General Daud Suleiman has challenged institutions that will have their licences revoked or have already been revoked to appeal the decisions to the High Court and that if the court sustains the regulator’s decisions, the institutions have to reapply for the licences.

High court judge Mike Tembo last week threw out an application by Rainbow Television which sought a judicial review of Macra’s decision to revoke the station’s licence.

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