President Lazarus Chakwera has said he is committed to upholding principles of press freedom.
He said this as media practitioners commemorated World Press Freedom Day yesterday, which was held under the theme ‘Information as a Public Good’.
In a statement, which the President’s Press Secretary Brian Banda issued Monday, the Malawi leader says he appreciates the role media practitioners play in advancing democratic values in Malawi.
“The President has always believed that information is a public good, as demonstrated by the operationalised Access to Information (ATI) Act within the first 100 days of his Administration. As such, the President is delighted that the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is ‘Information as a Public Good’. In light of this theme, the President wishes to assure all journalists in the country of his continued support and appreciation for the indispensable role they play in entrenching democratic values and fostering good governance in service to all Malawians,” the statement reads.
State Vice-President Saulos Chilima echoed the sentiments.
“I personally value the work of our members of the Fourth Estate in exposing corruption, injustices and hardships experienced by fellow citizens whose voices are silenced or ignored,” Chilima says in a statement.
Chilima said the news media were even more relevant now as the world battles the Covid pandemic.
“Correct and balanced information from the media is crucial in fighting the pandemic. I have faith that you will stand up to the task. We thank you for your efforts and dedication to duty,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)- Malawi has described 2020/21 as a year of mixed fortunes for journalists in the country.
Misa-Malawi Chairperson Theresa Ndanga said this during World Press Freedom Day commemorations in Blantyre.
She said, despite the ATI Act being operationalised, 20 journalists have faced various forms of attack since January 2021.
“Journalists continue to face attacks, including physical attacks, arrests and being summoned by the police. This washes away gains made in the fight for press freedom, including operationalisation of the Access to Information Act,” she said.
This year’s commemorations coincided with the commemoration of 30 years of the Windhoek Declaration after, on May 3 1991, journalists made a declaration that demanded press freedom in Windhoek, Namibia.
“As we commemorate the existence of the declaration, we need to ask ourselves if we are, indeed, independent from political and economic oppression and how we can safeguard the independence which the declaration calls for,” she said.
Information Minister Gospel Kazako said the government was committed to creating a conducive environment for media operations.