By: Feston Malekezo and Sam Kalimira
Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda is of the view that a society cannot thrive without surveillance, and people should accept that they are under shadowing, giving an example of camera’s at airports which he backed to say people have never complained of.
He was speaking on personal capacity in Mzuzu Friday, during a panel discussion organized by the Media Institute on Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter and the European Union, themed journalism under surveillance which was held as part of World Press Freedom Day celebrations.
According to Nyirenda, spying is everywhere in the world and it is difficult to define if journalism is under surveillance or not, and that people should define what journalism is all about. He cited the Rwanda genocide as a matter which was contributed by journalists, adding the conduct cannot be accepted by any country.
“The underlining reason is peaceful and safe society. For social we need such kind of surveillance. But what I mentioned is that when we are talking about surveillance there has to be legitimate means of doing that. It is not a question of any kind of behaviors that will be under surveillance,” he said.
Commenting on archaic laws such as sedition that are stifling freedom of expression Nyirenda said there is a draft bill to amend and repeal some provisions of the law which would possibly be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament.
Misa Chairperson Teresa Ndanga said putting journalists under surveillance has cost implications where among others they will not be trusted by their sources as they cannot manage to guarantee anonymity.
She said surveillance may also harm the safety of journalists by disclosing sensitive private information, which could be used for arbitrary judicial harassment or attack.
“We should never accept any form of surveillance on journalism because where the state is intercepting private conversations, communication, phone calls or messages whatever form it may take, essentially what they are doing is to prevent journalists from coming up with a story in the end. The whole reason they are intercepting that communication is to prevent a story from being published. And most times you would find out that it not necessarily that the story is wrong but they would want to hide some information,” she said.
Concurring with Ndanga, Mzuzu University Head of Department of Communication Studies Dr Precious Mandula pointed that journalists must not be gagged as they are key to promoting good governance.
Meanwhile, EU Head of Corporation Ivo Hoefkens said EU stands for free media commending the government for making efforts towards realization of the same.